Vice President Harris hails Newark as model for lead replacement

Vice President Kamala Harris met with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and other elected leaders in Newark on Friday to highlight the city's efforts to replace lead water pipes. Newark struggled with high levels of lead in drinking water for years. The water crisis created outrage and mistrust in the community. 

With mounting pressure, the city faced the task of replacing all its lead service lines. The project was expected to take up to a decade but was completed in under three years, according to city and state officials, making the city an "example and role model of what cities around our country are capable of doing," Harris said.

Thanks to a loan from Essex County, the project kicked off in 2019. A total of 23,000 lead pipes were replaced. The project is now being used as a national model for other cities and states. 

"People told us we will never get this done, this will be an impossible thing to do, it will take 10 years or more to get to this point," Mayor Ras Baraka said. 

Get breaking news alerts in the free FOX5NY News app | Sign up for FOX 5 email newsletters

Last year, Murphy signed legislation requiring all lead pipes to be replaced in the state by 2031.

The vice president's visit — meant to hail a federal infusion of cash — also lays bare a funding gap facing the state if all the lead lines in the state are to be replaced. New Jersey is getting a $1 billion infusion from the federal bipartisan legislation, a significant sum aimed at updating drinking water and sewer systems, but it's a fraction of the estimated $30 billion in funds needed to complete the overhaul, according to state environmental regulators.

This year, the state is getting $170 million in funds for water infrastructure. State regulators say they want utilities and local governments across the state to come forward during planned hearings to apply for funds.

With FOX 5 NY's Lissette Nunez and The Associated Press.