Flint Water Spillover: Agency Files Lawsuit Against City of Newark

Newark, NJ

An environmental group last week, filed a lawsuit against the city of Newark alleging the Brick City has been negligent in protecting residents from imbibing toxic drinking water?a situation some contend is eerily similar to the ongoing water crisis in the city of Flint, MI.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a New York based environmental think tank, said drinking water samples tested last year and earlier this year from across the city of Newark showed inordinate high levels of lead contamination. In addition, dangerously high levels of lead have been discovered in the cities of Paterson and Trenton?prompting some residents, state officials and others to liken the issue to what has been happening in the city of Flint. ?It’s been more than four years since residents of the impoverished and mostly African American city of Flint, MI unknowingly began imbibing toxic drinking water, following a state government mandated move to save money.

The illicit move caused several people to die and thousands of others to become gravely ill and ultimately branded the Michigan city ?as the unwitting poster child for a city that systematically poisoned its residents and fostered legislative corruption. It’s a moniker some contend the city of Newark and other cities across the country may soon share. In a statement to the media, a spokesperson for the NRDC said, ?These are still really disturbingly high lead levels and we don’t have any reason to believe that steps have been taken to protect the public in ways that are necessary.? The suit also contends the city may not have properly and fully informed residents regarding the level of contamination in the drinking water?a notion reminiscent of some of what residents of Flint endured.

Under guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead levels must test below 15 parts per billion of lead. Levels at some Newark Public Schools tested at or near those levels and in at least one case, lead levels at a public school in the Bronx had lead levels that tested at or above levels recorded in Flint during the height of the water crisis. Officials in Newark dismiss the claims from the NRDC and contend that residents are not at risk of unsafe tap water. In a statement the director of Newark Water and Sewer Utilities blamed the controversy on others and claimed lead service lines that connect homes throughout the city to Newark’s main water lines were privately owned.

She added that the agency is ?fully compliant? with state and federal regulations. She added the city will implement a service line replacement program this summer and encourage residents to participate. However, the issue of suspect drinking water is pervasive, as millions of homes across the country are grounded in lead pipes. ?Toxic drinking water is the result of outdated infrastructure and corroded pipes,? said Camden-based environmental scientist Tiffany Heigler. She added that in many cases unsafe drinking water can be due to antiquated or non-existent purification methods. It was this selective water treatment processing method that occurred in Flint?with deadly consequences. ?A similar water crisis already be occurring now in other communities across the country,? she concluded.

To find out more about just what’s in that glass of tap water, visit the Sure-BioChem Laboratories website.

(TNJ contributing writer Glenn Townes was awarded a reporting fellowship from the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources (IJNR) to cover issues related to the Flint water crisis.)