Lead-Tainted Drinking Water in Newark School System Gets Closer Inspection

District releases results of lead tests from 2012 on; mayor demands immediate action

Under mounting political and community pressure Newark’s school district yesterday released the school-by-school results of lead testing of their drinking water — revealing elevated levels in at least some schools dating back to 2012.

The posting of the data came after two weeks of questions and an escalating outcry demanding to know what the district has done to inform the public as to what some are calling a water crisis.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka initially stood with School Superintendent Chris Cerf, trying to temper the concerns. But yesterday demanded immediate action.

Newark Schools Water Lead Test Results
Newark Schools Water Lead Test Results

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Baraka gave Cerf credit for finally moving on the problem, but questioned where the state-appointed administration was in the past, now that there are indications the problem may date back back a decade or more.

“If tests for lead have been conducted since 2004, it is obvious that the state-controlled NPS has known about the lead problem for at least 12 years if not more,” Baraka said in a statement.

“The NPS says that it has been taking steps since 2004 to ‘remediate and mitigate elevated lead levels.’ Yet, during this period, the people of Newark, especially our parents and children, were not told that the problem exists.

Baraka stopped short of saying there was an intentional effort to conceal the elevated readings, but he wasn’t offering much forgiveness to the state’s oversight.

“We don’t believe that the NPS deliberately hid the problem, but we think it was a poor decision not to inform the public,” his statement read. “We are happy that the present superintendent had the sense to reveal the problem. But we know that the State did not care enough about the problem to take the real but expensive steps to permanently protect the lives and health of our children.”

The district’s release last night was extensive, including test results for its 60-plus schools dating back to 2012 and also the step-by-step testing process that is already underway to check all 67 existing buildings going forward.

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