Gov. Murphy visits Newark amid lead-contaminated water crisis
Gov. Phil Murphy toured parts of Newark Wednesday with Mayor Ras Baraka as the city deals with a lead-contaminated water crisis.
Murphy and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe say that the state is working with federal officials to determine how widespread the lead problem might be. This is while the state ships in 70,000 cases of emergency bottled water for affected residents.
“We don't know [if] this is something we may be able to resolve quickly or not. But there's not an unending supply and that's one area where the federal government certainly can - we're going to need them to punch at their weight,” Murphy says.
Officials say that the lead issue lies in the city’s infrastructure and not in the water supply itself. Newark officials say that federal assistance could reduce the 10-year timeline for replacing 14,000 lead service lines citywide.
“The reality is, the water in the reservoir does not have lead in it. Right? When the water leaves the reservoir and goes through our pipes and gets in the pipes in people's homes, lead leaches from the pipes and gets into people's water,” Baraka says.
Newark began giving out free bottled water to residents Monday after water tested in three homes with filters still showed signs of lead contamination. But officials say that there's not enough information to say for sure whether filters have failed. One home passed the test. In the other two, the tests found lead levels had gone down dramatically - but not enough.
“We take this very seriously. We want to be out ahead of this…I think all of us believe we need to have a lot more data to understand the exact trajectory here,” says Murphy.
Newark is not the only place in New Jersey facing issues with lead service lines. McCabe said her office estimates there are 300,000 homes with lead lines statewide. She says that it would cost a total of $3 billion to fix them.
State leaders say that they will be holding hearings soon about water safety, which will examine how to better enforce the "Water Quality Accountability Act. State Sen. Troy Singleton will chair the hearings.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, a former Newark mayor, says, “It’s shameful that our national crisis of lead-contaminated water disproportionately hits poor black and brown communities like my own."
Booker is also calling for federal action.