January 8, 2020 | Number of The Day
Drop in lead levels in Newark’s unfiltered water since February 2019

The latest tests of Newark’s water show a steady decrease in lead levels, according to Kareem Adeem, acting director of the city’s sewer utilities.

“Ninety percent of the water we tested has fallen very close to the acceptable federal level of 15 parts per billion,” said Adeem. “As of December, our parts per billion were down to 17.3 in 90 percent of the samples.” That represents a 74% drop from February 2019. Lead levels have been dropping steadily since May, when the city introduced a new orthophosphate anti-corrosion program, he said.

“The effectiveness of the orthophosphate is gradual, so we expect to see the lead levels continue to drop,” said Adeem, who explained that samples are taken “from pipes where the water has been stagnant for hours, for instance, overnight. This will always make lead levels read higher because the water has been sitting in the lead line … Also, this is also water not run through the filters we have given residents.”

The city has distributed nearly 40,000 filters, which apparently have proved to be 99% effective in removing lead to one or two parts per billion, the same levels found in bottled water. Newark is continuing to replace household lead service lines. To date, it has replaced 4,556 lines, more than 25% of the 18,720 targeted for replacement.