TRENTON -- Before a shovel went in the ground, Mayor Ras Baraka knew there would be a significant obstacle in getting all of Newark’s 18,720 lead service lines replaced in an expedient manner: finding and obtaining permission from landlords.
“More than 70 percent of the people in Newark rent,” the Mayor said. “Sometimes these landlords are hard to track down. If they don’t respond in a timely manner, we have to protect their tenants. They deserve clean drinking water, too.”
The Mayor pushed for a City ordinance to do just that, and in September, the Newark City Council passed a bill that allows the city to “commence procedures” to replace lead service lines without a landlord’s or homeowners permission.
Around the same time, a similar bill was introduced in the New Jersey State Legislature and was approved by Dec. 16.
Yesterday in Trenton, Gov. Phil Murphy signed bill S4110 that will allow municipalities to do what Newark did five months ago.
“The legislation Governor Murphy signed today on lead service lines is a major step forward in removing these health hazards from all of New Jersey’s municipalities,” Mayor Baraka said. “We are pleased that Newark’s partnership with Essex County and the state is removing this risk to our city and residents. Thank you to all of the sponsors of this critical legislation, which will ultimately create a safer New Jersey. We hope that this sparks a national policy movement on how all communities should address lead service lines.”
Newark’s ambitious lead line replacement program is nationally unprecedented in its scope and speed. The City has replaced 25 percent of the lead lines in seven months and is currently ripping out 85 a day. At this pace, all 18,720 lines will be exchanged in 18 months or so and at no cost to residents, thanks to an Essex County-backed bond of $120 million, which the City will repay with Port Authority lease money.
Newark’s Water and Sewer Director Kareem Adeem said the City ordinance has helped expedite the process.
“Our city took the lead in addressing our lead service line issue through our ground-breaking ordinance,” Adeem said. “This ordinance has now become an example for our State Legislators and Governor Murphy. Municipal water and sewer utilities agencies across the state can now benefit from Newark’s experience and this statewide legislation to remove lead service lines in their communities. We are becoming a model for our entire state.”
- Mark Di Ionno, Newark News