Newark lead water crisis: 30,000 more residents may be at risk, advocacy group says

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Groups filing a lawsuit against the State of New Jersey and the City of Newark appeared in federal court Thursday to demand that city residents are given safe drinking water -- amid fears that an additional 30,000 households are at risk.

The federal government warned earlier this month about high lead levels in Newark's water system, sending officials scrambling for more testing and distribution of bottled water.

RELATED: Timeline of Newark's water lead contamination crisis

Yet residents in the Wanaque section in the eastern part of the city said that they have been left out of those efforts, despite needing the help.

"The city has been fighting against having to supply bottled water or even filters for most of the eastern part of the city, and unfortunately, we now have strong data from the city itself showing that the eastern part of the city also has elevated lead levels," said Erik Olsen, a representative from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The NRDC and the Newark Education Workers Caucus (NEW) filed the suit last year, accusing them of violating federal safe drinking water laws. The suit asks the court to order the city to treat the water with corrosion inhibitors and replace the old lead service lines.

The Wanaque district is run by an outside agency, not by Newark authorities. It covers nearly 10% of the city's population.

Newark argued that very few area residents have high levels of lead in their water and insisted that it has followed all federal guidelines.

The city has stumbled so far in response to this water crisis: Some faucet filters handed out last fall were defective, the city announced Saturday, and some of the bottled water distributed in response was past its best use date of May 30, 2019.

With public health at stake, particularly in poor black neighborhoods, officials are vowing to fix the problem. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is urging the federal government to help.

"We need the EPA and the federal government to punch at their weight. We're going to need their help, and this is not just a Newark challenge," he said during a visit to the city Wednesday.

Anyone concerned about lead poisoning in themselves or their children can get their blood test. Talk to your health care provider or the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness at 973-733-5323.
CLICK HERE for more information about lead testing.

Newark residents can also CLICK HERE to see if you have a lead service line or if you qualify for a filter.

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