Newark reports lead levels at the tap are falling

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

It’s not a ‘we told you so’ from Newark but it’s pretty close. The city reports lead levels in unfiltered tap water have fallen 74% since last February, and 90% of the samples taken show lead levels have fallen to 17.3 parts per billion — still slightly above the EPA’s acceptable standard of 15 parts per billion.

“We’re paying attention. We found out the problem in October 2018 with our Pequannock draft study and immediately we started implementing steps, or taking measures, to correct the problem – putting in a temporary orthophosphate feed station back in May in record time and we’re seeing the results of that. Hopefully, we’re very optimistic, going into 2020, and the next monitoring period we hope to be under the action level,” said Kareen Adeem, acting director of the Newark Water and Sewer Utilities.

Last August, the city told a federal judge new corrosion control at the Pequannock treatment facility would bear these kinds of results and about this time.

“We’re seeing a steady decline every month since we added the orthophosphate back in May,” said Adeem.

But the water results raise eyebrows for Yvette Jordan, a plaintiff in the Natural Resources Defense Council lawsuit against Newark.

“Ideally, I would think it’s great. However New Jersey DEP, the Drinking Water Watch says that our levels are at 33 parts per billion. And since the state is the actual final word, I think the city has somewhat exaggerated,” said Jordan.

“We’ve identified what’s wrong and now we’re taking the proper steps to correct it,” Adeem said.

As the city reports progress in lowering the lead levels, the program to replace lead service lines is still well underway. With a $120 million loan from Essex County, the city reports crews have replaced more than 4,600, or 25%, of the targeted 18,000 lead service lines.

“With all those things we’re doing we’re going in the right direction,” Adeem said.

The city says crews are on pace to meet the goal of replacing all the lead service lines within two years.