Virginia Tech civil engineer and professor Dr. Marc Edwards discovered the elevated lead levels in Flint, and now he’s planning to conduct water testing in Newark.
At a field hearing of a subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology in Bloomfield, Edwards was asked if he lacks confidence in Newark’s ability to handle the lead crisis that has ravaged the city and surrounding towns in recent months.
“I don’t have complete confidence that any of us can completely control lead in water problems,” he replied. “So, we always have to see how widespread these problems are and make sure that folks are given appropriate public messaging to protect themselves and their family.”
Newark community activist Donna Jackson said the city needs external testing and welcomed Edwards’ expertise.
“We need some outside, independent testing being done in Newark. We do not trust what the city has done,” said Jackson, adding that she’s anticipating 300 to 500 water testing kits from Edwards this month.
Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, who chairs the subcommittee, said the lead crisis is daunting, but a fix is possible through partnerships at all levels of government and with the private sector.
“As we know, this is, as I said, a kitchen sink problem,” said Sherrill. “There are so many pieces of it that we need to address. What I was happy to hear from our mayors and our county executive is just how much energy and effort they’re putting in to handling this, and I was also very happy to hear from some of our experts about the new and innovative ways they’re handling it so we can get the cost down.”
Sherrill also commended Essex County for providing a $120 million loan to Newark to help the city fast-track replacement of its lead service lines.
When asked about cheaper alternatives to pipe replacement by another congressman, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo said he was open to anything and welcomed the increased federal attention.
“The more people notice and hear about what’s going on, the more money we’re going to get back,” he said.
Newark’s water issues now have some of its neighbors – who get their water from Newark – looking for another source. Bloomfield is looking to switch from the Pequannock water supply to the Wanaque, while Nutley is investigating a switch to the Passaic Valley supply.