Newark Borrows to Hurry New Water Lines

Officials decide not to wait for federal help with lead issue
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 26, 2019 6:25 PM CDT
Newark Borrows to Hurry New Water Lines
Signs indicate where to pick up water filters at the Newark Health Department in Newark.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New Jersey's biggest city on Monday announced a plan to borrow $120 million to dramatically cut the time it will take to replace pipes causing elevated lead levels in drinking water. City, state, and county officials said the plan is expected to cut the time from 10 years to less than 30 months to replace about 18,000 lead lines in Newark, the AP reports. The announcement came about two weeks after the city began distributing water bottles to residents in about 14,000 homes. Water from two houses tested positive for lead above the federal threshold of 15 parts per billion. The plan depends on approval by city and county officials, who are expected to vote on the $120 million bond proposal Tuesday. Work could begin in a few weeks, per WCBS, and be finished within three years.

Authorities had called on the federal government to help but said Monday they would move forward with their own plan. "We couldn't wait for them to react," Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said. Nearly 800 lines have been replaced since March, using money from the state. Homeowners were going to be responsible for paying 10% of the replacement cost, because the lines aren't owned by the city, but officials said they won't have to pay under the new plan. Newark passed out nearly 40,000 water filters beginning last year. The lead is leaching into the water from pipes and is not originating from the source water. The state Department of Environmental Protection said last week that 225 additional homes are being tested, which will take a few more weeks. Residents will receive bottled water while the testing continues. (Flint has a new water problem.)

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