NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Sources told CBS2 officials will be fast tracking the process to replace thousands of old lead pipes to get safe water to residents.
There is a sliver of hope for many residents who have been begging the city for some relief. They’ve had to use bottled water for weeks after recent testing found high levels of lead despite the use of filters previously handed out by the city, Reena Roy reported Sunday.
As officials and community leaders handed out free bottled water to them, crews have also been working to replace thousands old lead service pipes to solve the ongoing water issue once and for all.
That whole process was originally expected to take more than eight to 10 years, but according to a source familiar with the issue officials will be announcing a $120 million bond program on Monday from Essex County to the City of Newark to speed things up and complete it in 18 to 36 months.
Lead levels spiked several years ago, but became a more pressing problem with that recent testing earlier this month, which put 14,000 Newark homes, all serviced by the Pequannock water treatment plant, at risk.
Gov. Phil Murphy and Mayor Ras Baraka spoke on Sunday afternoon about this, saying testing continues in Newark as they work to find out if the lead is a widespread problem or just an anomaly with those filters.
“There’s a much more aggressive and broader testing going on as we speak, into the hundreds,” Murphy said. “Were these filters faulty? Was it just those three homes? Is it the chemical that has been going through the pipes, to seal those pipes? Is that working? It looks like it is. We’ll have a lot more information at that point to put the long-term game plan in place.”
“The source water does not have lead in it at all,” Baraka said. “The issue is they have lead service lines and lead leeches from pipes and get into the water because our corrosion control stopped working some time ago. The EPA told us that.”
As they tackle the root cause, residents are just taking it day by day, some even buying their own bottled water to get by.
“I’ve been spending a lot of money basically every other week,” one resident said.
A source told CBS News while the problem in Newark is being worked on, similar issues with dangerous lead pipelines could soon appear in Camden and Trenton as well.