Group in Newark water lawsuit seeks to force city action

August 24, 2018

An environmental group suing the city of Newark over alleged systemic violations of clean water rules filed a motion Friday to force the city to take immediate measures while the lawsuit proceeds.

In a filing in federal court, the Natural Resources Defense Council asked a judge to order the city to provide alternate water supplies for vulnerable residents and provide free testing for all residents, conduct a public awareness campaign and “establish drinking water resource centers, where residents may pick up water bottles, filters, and drinking water testing kits, and may drop off completed testing kits for lab analysis.”

The NRDC and the Newark Education Workers Caucus, an association of educators who work in the city, sued in June alleging the city hasn’t adequately monitored and tested a water system it said contains “dangerously high” levels of lead.

The lawsuit contends Newark has minimized the problem by telling residents the water is safe to drink and that the problem is confined to a limited number of homes with private service lines, the suit alleges.

Prolonged exposure in children to low levels of lead has been linked to nervous system damage, learning disabilities and impaired formation of blood cells

At the time the lawsuit was filed, the city called the allegations “outrageously false” and said the water complies with state and federal regulations. In response to Friday’s motion for a preliminary injunction, Andrea Adebowale, Newark’s director of water and sewer utilities, said in an email that excessive lead levels are caused by privately owned lead service lines, which are the responsibility of homeowners.

Adebowale added that Newark “is already implementing a plan to help property owners replace the approximately 15,000 lead service lines in the city at an estimated cost of $75 million,” aided by funding from the state.

“Contrary to the false allegations of the NRDC, the city has conducted an extensive public information campaign to inform residents of the lead service line problem,” Adebowale wrote.

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