News Feature | November 2, 2018

Newark Lead Crisis Follows Pattern Of Flint

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The lead crisis in Newark, NJ, has clear echoes of the disaster in Flint, MI.

“For nearly a year and a half, top officials in Newark denied that their water system had a widespread lead problem, despite ample evidence that the city was facing a public health crisis that had echoes of the one in Michigan,” The New York Times reported.

“Even as the risk persisted in the spring, the officials in Newark, New Jersey’s most populous city, took few precautionary measures, instead declaring on their website, ‘NEWARK’S WATER IS ABSOLUTELY SAFE TO DRINK,’” the report stated.

But officials appear to be changing course now, the report stated. That’s because a new study makes the crisis undeniable.

“A study found water treatment in Newark was failing and 25 percent of children tested showed elevated levels of lead last year,” ABC Radio reported.

The engineering study commissioned by the city discovered that measures meant to keep lead out of water were failing at one of Newark’s treatment plants.

“State officials are warning that children under 6 in homes with lead pipes served by the plant should not drink unfiltered tap water,” The New York Times reported. Officials began an “urgent giveaway of 40,000 water filters across the city of 285,000 people, targeting tens of thousands of residences,” the report stated.

“The severity of the problem came to light following the implementation of a 2016 state rule that mandates tests for lead in the drinking water be conducted every six months. The rule went into effect months after lead was discovered in the city's schools,” Blavity reported.

Erik Olson, a top official at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), discussed the similarities to how Flint handled its water crisis. NRDC sued the city over water issues.

“The parallels to Flint are fairly clear: The city was denying a problem even though its own data was showing problems,” said Erik Olson, a top official at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Newark is not as extreme as Flint but still a serious problem.”

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has stood up for the city’s response.

“When you make a statement that the drinking water is not safe, it is yelling fire in a crowded room,” he recently stated, per The New York Times. “In fact, Newark has some of the best drinking water. The problem is that our infrastructure is not safe.”