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Old Posted Aug 20, 2019, 12:28 AM
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How Newark got lead in its water, and what it means for the rest of America

Close to half of Newark homes tested have lead in their water. Residents are outraged.
by Sarah Sax
Dec 18 2018, 10:51am

When Newark announced it was handing out 40,000 filters to residents believed to be at risk of high lead levels in their water, it came as a surprise to some. This was in October, and for more than a year, the city had said Newark's water was “absolutely safe to drink,” while robocalls to residents assured them their water was not contaminated.

The city’s messages did include an important caveat: that “the only high lead readings were taken inside older one- and two-family homes that have lead pipes leading from the city's pure water into those homes.” But the clarifications usually came after messaging touting the water’s safety. For many residents, some of whom didn’t know what a lead service line was and whether their homes and buildings had one or not, that wasn’t the message that stuck...

Now, recent research by the government itself suggests Newark does indeed have a water crisis on its hands. A study commissioned by the city indicates that a change in the water chemistry at their Pequannock water treatment plant caused lead service lines to leach and contaminate the water in as many as 22,000 households’ taps, starting in early 2017. And recent tests showed close to half of 180 households monitored had dangerous levels of lead in their water....

...In 2015, more than 1,000 community water systems in the United States serving almost 4 million people were in violation of the federal Lead and Copper Rule, according to a study done by the NRDC. And if the 5 parts per billion were adopted nationally, many more cities would have a crisis on their hands.

“Lead Service Lines are ticking timebombs,” said Olson. “All it takes is a change in a city's water chemistry — they change their disinfectant or a storm comes through and changes the water balance — and it affects the lead service lines. The only way you can avoid this is pulling them out.”
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