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EPA Mandate to City: Hand Out Bottled Water ASAP

In Newark, NJ, filters to keep lead out didn't work, leading to recommendation for bottled water
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2019 7:23 AM CDT
A water bottle belonging to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, left, rests behind him as he and Kareem Adeem, the city's deputy director of water and sewer utilities, take questions from a reporter during a news...   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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(Newser) – In what the New York Times calls "an echo of Flint," a New Jersey city that's handed out nearly 40,000 filters to help protect residents whose water flows through old lead pipes now says those filters might not be working and is moving to Plan B. Starting at 3pm Monday, those in Newark who've received one of those filters, and whose water is piped in from the Pequannock water treatment plant, can pick up their bottled water at four locations around the city (see NJ.com for specifics), following a letter Friday from the Environmental Protection Agency. "The data suggest that use of the specific filtration devices distributed by Newark may not be reliably effective" at keeping lead out of the water, the agency wrote after a second round of water sampling in two Newark residences. "We believe it is the responsibility of the City of Newark to provide ... bottled water as soon as possible."

Lead started seeping into the water in 2017, when old lead pipes began corroding and Pequannock's water treatment system faltered. The Times notes Newark officials initially denied any problem with the city's drinking water—until last fall, when it suddenly started doling out the filters. On Saturday, Mayor Ras Baraka shared results of the recent test, but he urged only households with pregnant women and young children to seek out the bottled water, telling everyone else to flush the water for five minutes before using the filters. In January, Baraka had implored President Trump in an open letter to help Newark's "true emergency" instead of building a border wall. It's still not clear why the filters in the two tested homes, which showed lead levels above the federal cap of 15 parts per billion, failed to work properly; the city plans further tests with a larger sample size. (In June, a "stunning" reversal in Flint.)

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