Judge hears argument for wider bottled water distribution in Newark

A federal judge took testimony Friday in a bid by the Natural Resources Defense Council for the court to order Newark to provide bottled water to pregnant women and children under 6 who live in the eastern section of the city.

District Court Judge Esther Salas did not rule on the case.

The environmental advocacy organization and a group of Newark teachers asked for the order after elevated lead levels were discovered in the area, which receives water from the Wanaque system. That’s a separate system from the Pequannock service area, where elevated lead readings in filtered water prompted a federal directive that bottled water be made available this week to residents with lead service lines.

Lawyers for the city asked Salas to not issue the order, saying it would send the wrong message and cause residents to lose confidence in the water that flows from their tap.

A lawyer for the NRDC said failing to provide bottled water would risk damaging the developing brains of children.

“I just don’t know what evidence you have that the Wanaque residents are truly in danger,” Salas said.

The city revealed it is providing bottled water to pregnant and nursing women from the Wanaque district when they show up at the four distribution centers set up in response to the EPA order about Pequannock customers.

“If it’s already being done for pregnant and nursing women at four distribution centers, why not extend it for three months?” Salas asked.

Salas did not indicate when she would make a ruling in the case.

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