Newark – January 27, 2021 – Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced today that Newark’s Lead Service Line Replacement (LSLR) Program has surpassed the 17,000 mark on its way to replacing all 18,720-plus lines in the City.
“We have been committed to ever-improving the quality of our drinking water, including investing nearly $200 million in upgrades to our treatment facilities and infrastructure from the very beginning of my administration,” Mayor Baraka said. “This latest milestone is exactly that; another important marker in our history of commitment to make Newark tap water the best in the country.”
The Mayor said he took exception to a recent press release by the National Resources Defense Council about a settlement over the suit they filed against the City in 2017.
“All the things they’re listing in the suit that we must do, we are already doing,” Mayor Baraka said. “For instance, it says we must replace all lead lines as part of the settlement. The settlement was released two days ago, and we’ve done 17,000. Clearly, we are not working at their beck and call, but at our own.”
When the City completes the program in the coming weeks, it will be able to claim that no city in America has eradicated such a volume of lead lines as quickly and mostly through its own financing, with no cost to residents in either capital outlay, tax increases or water rate hikes.
The lead service line replacement program has been led by the Department of Water and Sewer Utilities Director Kareem Adeem, who said the cooperation and patience of the residents has contributed much to the program’s success.
“We can’t thank the residents enough,” Director Adeem said. “They’ve been willing to help us identify lines, give us access to their homes and apartments, and even during COVID-19 were making sure our construction crew were well-stocked with PPE so they could continue working through the pandemic.”
Other parts of the NRDC’s press release address “demands” for free bottled water, free water testing, continued education of residents about lead and the use of filters, and the public posting of data.
“I resent the implication that we had to be pushed into doing all that,” Mayor Baraka said. “For instance, the City has been testing water for free for decades. From the very beginning of trace lead found in several residential homes, we have dutifully informed, educated and looked out for the best interests of our residents without being threatened by lawsuits or protests. For others to insinuate otherwise is disingenuous.”
“City employees and volunteers were going door-to-door, block by block in every aspect of this process, from the very start, whether it was ensuring vulnerable residents had clean water, or doing filter education and installment, or logging all 18,720-plus lead lines,” the Mayor said.
When trace levels of lead were discovered in several private homes in 2017, the City immediately notified the affected residents and began an exhaustive search to find out why they were experiencing the first lead exceedances in private homes in 25 years.
As early as the first discovery, Mayor Baraka began thinking about full lead service line replacement. When it was discovered the corrosion chemicals that tamped down lead in the pipes had faltered, the City introduced a new corrosion control system and began the lead service line replacement program.
The first lines in the City were replaced beginning two years ago with a $75 million City bond, and an Essex County bond of $120 million in the fall of 2019 allowed the City to accelerate the work.
In recent weeks and days, Newark has been called “a model city” for lead abatement by Erik Olsen of the NRDC and Mark Mauriello, co-chair of New Jersey Water Works has said Newark’s progress “gives other cities a road map … and certainly a cause for optimism.”
“I’m proud of the way this City and our residents have responded to this problem,” the Mayor said. “We attacked it with grit and will and our own home-grown leadership. We solve our own problems.”
- NEWARK -