$120M Bond Aims to Fix Newark’s Lead Water

As the City of Newark struggles with dangerous lead levels in its water service lines that may pose a threat to residents and others who drink the water, County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. this morning announced that the Essex County Improvement Authority plans to lend Newark approximately $120 million to replace thousands of water pipes over 24 to 30 months. A series of official votes is scheduled for tomorrow.

Newark had already begun the process of replacing lead service lines in March, and has thus far installed some 700 lines out of an approximate 18,000.  The affected water lines are smaller pipes that travel to individuals’ homes.

Without the new bond, the entire project would have taken an estimated 10 years, and many people/entities expressed that residents simply cannot wait.

“Replacing the lead service lines is the only permanent way to address this [lead water] issue,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka at today’s press conference, held at the Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver Conference Center, Newark.

Gov. Phil Murphy was also in attendance, stating, “While we are working hard to address the near-term priorities of providing bottled water, and, again, we repeat – especially for pregnant women, women who are nursing, young children and infants, the elderly and infirm – [we are] at the same time implementing a corrosion control system. We are also clearly focusing on the long-term solutions, including replacing aging water infrastructure.”

County Executive DiVincenzo noted Essex County’s relatively new, first-in-its-history AAA bond rating, which he said was achieved through “conservative budget practicing and the recurring revenue we have received.” Said bond rating is expected to save Newark between $15-$20 million in bond associated interest, he added.

Newark’s lead water crisis escalated partly because tests showed short-term-remedy water filters were not appropriately reducing lead levels. The United States Environmental Protection Agency had recently asked the city to begin providing bottled water.

Some reports state that the problem’s root cause is that a water treatment process designed to prevent lead from coming off older pipes had ceased functioning for a period of time.

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