NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Newark residents and advocates are demanding city officials provide everyone with safe drinking water, not just some neighborhoods, after lead concerns prompted a water emergency.

The concerned citizens are asking for 10 cases of bottled water to be delivered door-to-door every week to every household in the city of Newark to protect residents from possible lead poisoning after it was discovered some water filters distributed by the city were not working, CBS2’s Meg Baker reports.

“We’re struggling with getting water to drink,” said resident Debra Salters. “When we’re taking these carcinogens into our bodies every day, when you’re constantly covering up instead of owning up and fixing the situation, this is what happens. The people suffer.”

Newark officials argue this would be too expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and would disrupt a plan to flush the system because people would not be using regular amounts of tap water.

“The city has argued that it’s like crying fire in crowded room, that if we start distributing bottled water to people in this eastern part of the city, people won’t trust their water. We think that horse is out of the barn. A lot of people are not trusting their water,” Erik Olson, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said.

Right now, only residents living in areas service by the Pequannock water treatment plant are eligible for free water. The rule was set by city officials, but through the judge’s questioning Friday, it was revealed that the EPA’s letter sent last week states that water should be distributed to Newark residents. The federal agency did not single out a section of the city.

This is a bonus for advocates who are arguing that residents served by the Wanaque treatment plant should be added to receive free bottled water, especially pregnant women and children.

“Do it for the whole Wanaque area,” Newark homeowner Brenda Toyloy said.

“We have Band-Aids, and the Band-Aid right now is bottled water,” Yvette Jordan said.

The ideal solution to the problem is to replace all lead service lines in the city. The city started doing this in March, but because the pipes are on private property, the city must contact each owner for permission to do the work and the property owner must foot part of the bill, which can cost thousands of dollars.

The judge will not make a ruling Friday. The case is expected to continue into next week.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy visited Newark on Wednesday to address the crisis.

Web Extra: Gov. Phil Murphy, Local Officials On Newark Water Emergency

 

Where To Get Help

University Hospital will be offering free lead screenings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday for children and adults in the affected zip codes.

To make an appointment, call (973) 972-9000. Residents should bring a proof of address to their screening, and guardians accompanying children should bring proof of their relationship to the child.

Families in the Pequannock service area with lead service lines who have received filters can pick up water at the following locations:

  • The City of Newark Department of Health and Wellness, 110 William St.
  • Bo Porter Sports Complex, 378 Lyons Ave.
  • Boylan Street Recreation Center, 916 South Orange Ave.
  • Vince Lombardi Center, 201 Bloomfield Ave.

For more information, including frequently asked questions, click here.