Source: NJ Spotlight
For the past few years, Newark has been adding a corrosive agent to drinking water to prevent lead leaching from the fixtures. It also has installed filters on water fountains.
Of the samples tested that were found to be above the 15-ppb action-level set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, most were found to be in the 15-ppb-to 100-ppb range with the highest level detected was 558 ppb at Bard High School. At a hastily arranged news conference at Newark City Hall, State-appointed superintendent of schools Chris Cerf said, “In an abundance of caution, we are going the extra mile,” and added that the situation in Newark “is an entirely different story” than Flint, where lead levels exceeded 13,000 parts per billion (ppb).
Lead poisoning can cause lifelong learning and health problems, according to experts. “It’s a health epidemic in New Jersey. It needs to be fixed,’’ warned Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Network of New Jersey, a group lobbying for increasing funds to lead-hazard abatement efforts, adding that there is no safe level of lead exposure to children — “Any exposure to lead is a threat.”
“What matters most is how much lead is getting into the body,” agrees Clean Water Action campaign director David Pringle, . “We already know it is already happening in Newark.”
The schools will be retested again for lead in the upcoming days, officials said. In addition, the top 15 communities where high levels of lead have been found in children are having their school districts’ supplies tested, they noted.
Other elected officials said the problem indicates the need to fix the state’s crumbling infrastructure. “The situation underscores the need for action to fix or replace lead contaminated water pipes that threaten the city’s safety,’’ said Newark Congressman Donald Payne Jr.
To that end, Sen. Kip Bateman (R-Somerset) said late yesterday he would sponsor a measure to fund up to $20 million for lead abatement in Newark and other state locations. Bateman suggested using the state Clean Energy Fund to finance the effort, a source of money often siphoned off by various administrations and Legislatures for purposes beyond its original intention.