POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Murphy says he will not declare state of emergency over lead in Newark’s water

In Newark, residents are still showing up for screenings, test kits, and bottled water as they await more answers about lead levels detected in the taps of two homes, prompting talk of more government intervention.

Gov. Murphy Wednesday held a closed-door meeting with city and county leaders, including Mayor Ras Baraka. After the meeting, the governor told reporters he would not be declaring a state of emergency, as was suggested Tuesday by Assemblyman Jamel Holley.

Instead, he urged residents in the affected areas, especially the elderly, very young and expectant or nursing mothers, to continue to use bottled water, adding officials will wait to see what the next round of testing shows before announcing any further action. He said those tests could take several weeks to complete and will include what he called “multiple hundreds” of homes.

Murphy acknowledged that continuing to supply bottled water to Newark and the surrounding communities affected could become a bigger issue if those tests show a wider problem.

“The good news is we have a considerable supply. The other good news is that other organizations have … stepped up. So, so far so good. It’s not unending. And it’s among other reasons why we need the federal government to make sure they’re punching at the same weight that we’re punching,” the governor said, adding, “this isn’t just a Newark challenge, it isn’t just a challenge in other communities in New Jersey, this is a national challenge. And the sooner that we can get a renaissance … the sooner we can get a federal water infrastructure renaissance investment. You got communities all across the country with 100-year-old water infrastructure that needs to replaced.”

Meanwhile, members of the National Action Network rallied on the steps of Newark City Hall to show support for Mayor Baraka, who’s received criticism from some elected officials and residents for his handling of the crisis.

Organizers say National Action Network President Al Sharpton will join the mayor on Sunday to distribute what they said will be thousands of bottles of water.