Community activists attempt to drop off lead-free water at NJ jail

Community advocates attempting to drop off cases of bottled water at Northern State Prison were stopped by corrections officers on Thursday.

“We’re not here to drop off contraband, we’re not here to cause any chaos,” said Tia Ryan, a prison reform activist. “We want them to know our intention. This is lead-free water for the residents.”

While the prison is run by New Jersey, the activists say the water is supplied by the city of Newark and the ongoing lead crisis has the inmates worried enough to contact outside advocates.

"They're saying what about us. That's the position with the residents inside they're not inmates, not prisoners but residents, and they're saying what about us,” said Tyrone Barnes, a community activist.

While there have been calls for Governor Phil Murphy to declare a state of emergency, Murphy has consistently said that the situation does not require it.

“I think you call a state of emergency if you’ve outspent your capacity, if you are beyond your means, whether it’s the community, the county or the state, and we’re not in that situation.” Murphy said.

Lead is not coming from the source water, but from failed water treatment at the Pequannock Facility known as corrosion control, which is causing the contaminant from old pipes and plumbing to leak into the drinking supply.

Newark and the state are working with property owners to replace the 18,000 lead service lines in the impacted neighborhoods, which is expected to be costly.

Murphy said they have expanded the number of houses that are being tested for elevated lead levels.

Meanwhile, activists say that they will turn their attention to the Essex County Jail, which is directly manned by the city of Newark and not the state of New Jersey.