NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Lead from the pipes was leaking into the water for years.
Now, Newark city leaders say the worry is nearly over, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Monday.
The Cabrera family looked on in anticipation, as crews replaced their lead water service line. It was a relief after high lead levels were first discovered in homes in 2017.
“Now I can take a shower, happy, refreshing and everything, without any lead,” Chris Cabrera said.
Crews are in the home stretch of replacing the entire infrastructure of problematic pipes across the city, house by house and free to residents.
“All those residents that didn’t let us in during COVID, we’re going back to make sure we get into their homes,” said Kareem Adeem, director of the city’s Department of Water and Sewer.
It is an undertaking that can take decades, but is being touted as remarkable by the federal government.
The city has come a long way from the crisis that came to a head in 2018, as lead levels for some residents registered nearly three times allowed levels and raised concerns about exposure in children.
Then, questions arose about the effectiveness of the water filters distributed by the city, and efforts to provide bottled water left many frustrated.
When asked if the city has any concrete data about how the lead service lines impacted lead levels in children, Mayor Ras Baraka said, “The state’s data is telling us that the lead service line issue that we had did not impact children at all.”
“You lost a lot of trust of residents. Do you think that trust has returned?” Cline-Thomas asked.
“That’s what they were concerned about, remove the lead service lines. That’s what we did,” Baraka said.
“Unless the community hadn’t stood up, filed a federal lawsuit, I don’t know if they would have replaced lead service lines as fast as they did,” added Yvette Jordan, chair of the Newark Education Workers Caucus.
Jordan’s group settled its lawsuit against the city earlier this year, and now applauds the progress being made.
“I’m still a bit guarded. I’m still drinking my bottled water,” Jordan said.
But government leaders say this shows what can happen with collaboration and meaningful investment, especially in the neediest cities.