Flint 2.0? Lead Crisis Continues in Newark, Despite Filters

Ryan Lau | @RyanLau71R

From 2014-2018, local government in Flint, Michigan handed out water bottles to the public. Their gaffe in changing the water supply from the Detroit River to the Flint River led to a spike in lead concentration in the city’s tap water. The Flint situation has largely improved but isn’t over yet. Meanwhile, Newark, New Jersey is deep in a lead crisis of its own. Even though water filters are present, the EPA recently concluded that lead levels are high at several test locations.

Along with the announcement, the EPA recommended that the state and local government give tap water to affected citizens. Now in the third year of their battle against lead contamination, officials quickly affirmed they would do so. Mayor Ras Baraka claimed that “it’s not going to hurt anybody to give out the water”. However, he and Governor Phil Murphy also implied that they would not be able to do this without the federal government’s help, which may indirectly place an additional burden on taxpayers throughout the country.

Faulty Filters Full of Lead

Since October 2018, the city has sent out Pur brand water filters to people facing the contamination crisis. Pur is a popular brand that the brand-name houseware company Helen of Troy Limited produces. With door-to-door delivery and pickup centers, the Department of Water and Sewer Utilities has given out over 38,000 filters.

All of these have a stamp of approval from NSF International, a company dedicated to public safety with $300 million annual revenue. Despite this, the filters have repeatedly failed. The EPA has said that they don’t know why the filters aren’t working.

Neither NSF International nor Helen of Troy Limited immediately responded for comment regarding the EPA reports.

Is Newark the Next Flint?

The duration of the Newark crisis has led many to believe that the situation is similar to that of Flint, Michigan. The public distribution of water bottles is also a similarity. Last November, Mayor Baraka shot down these comparisons; he said that his government is taking action to fix the problem by repairing old lead pipes.

However, both governments allowed these pipes to get to the age where contamination is an increased risk. The lifespan of lead water pipes is approximately 100 years. Some pipes in Newark have been around for at least 130 years.

As the lead crisis continues, the water bottles act as a sign of temporary relief, but permanent change appears to still be on the horizon. Murphy and Baraka believe that the corrosion control system, which began in May, could solve the problem, but not until the end of the year. Long-term water bottle distribution may also delay this process further, as it works most effectively when city water is flowing through the pipes.

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