Tests have shown elevated levels of lead in Newark homes once the water goes through old pipes. While Mayor Ras Baraka insists Newark is no Flint, Michigan, a February email showed Newark’s method of keeping lead from corroded old pipes out of the distribution system wasn’t working. The city sent out no public alerts, instead insisting for months that its water was safe to drink. The Natural Resources Defense Council is suing the city over lead in the water.
“At that point, the city should have started this filter distribution program, at a minimum, and alerted people, and been forthcoming about the problem of lead in the tap water,” said Mae Wu, senior staff attorney for the NRDC.
The city distributed filters to parts of the city in October when it got results of that earlier testing and insists it did the right thing. At the time, the mayor said, “When you make a statement that the drinking water is not safe, it is yelling fire in a crowded room, and is in fact an incorrect statement. The drinking water is safe. There are parts of the city that do not need filters.”
On Friday the NRDC asked a federal judge to force the city to immediately give the same water filters to residents of the East Ward. “It’s a question of health and safety. It’s a question of making sure that their residents have access to clean and safe water,” said Wu.
The NRDC and the city will square off over the issue in federal court Tuesday.
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