Newark residents call for mayor to step down amid lead water crisis
NEW JERSEY (FOX 5 NY) - As authorities try to determine how widespread lead in Newark's drinking water might be, residents brought their kids to the steps of City Hall Wednesday to call for Mayor Ras Baraka (D) to step down.
They also demanded stronger action to fix the city's growing crisis over elevated lead levels.
"I have cried about Flint, Michigan. I don't want to cry about Newark, New Jersey, where I was born and raised," said one woman.
The response to the crisis from Newark city officials has been heavily criticized, including how a water replacement program is being handled.
Some people waited more than an hour in line for cases of water that were being handed out only to find that their address didn't qualify for the water. The free water is only available for certain neighborhoods in the city of 280,000.
People who did receive water were shocked to find that it was "expired"... they were past the best "use by" date. Officials claim the water in those bottles is safe to drink and said a new shipment has been delivered.
Governor Phil Murphy (D) toured a distribution center Wednesday and defended the state and local response.
"Clean water is a right not a privilege," the governor said.
Newark's water crisis has been bubbling up for years. First, the city discovered high lead levels in about 14-thousand homes. Then, about 8 months ago, residents were given EPA approved PUR water filters.
Those are the same kind of filters that were handed out to residents in Flint, Michigan because of the lead crisis there. But now, Newark officials admit that two out the three homes tested showed those filters aren't working.
Mayor Baraka still insists the proper steps were taken.
"We began to distribute filters to folks, we began robo calls, we began having tele town hall meetings," Baraka said.
Officials are asking for patience, but community members say patience is not a luxury they have.
Officials say no level of lead is safe. But federal rules set a level of 15 parts per billion as a tripwire. In Newark's case, authorities said the lead is leaching in from the pipes and is not originating from the source water, which comes from a water treatment plant about 18 miles northwest of the city.