The Newark Education Workers Caucus (NEW Caucus), a group of public school educators, and NRDC are partnering with community organizations in Newark, New Jersey to distribute approximately 1,400 free water filters and replacement cartridges to those impacted by the City’s ongoing lead in drinking water crisis.
Lead enters residents’ drinking water after it leaves the City’s treatment plants, when the improperly treated water corrodes lead pipes and plumbing, causing the toxic metal to leach and flake into the drinking water that flows through those pipes. That is how lead-contaminated water is eventually delivered to residents’ faucets. Because the contamination occurs in the distribution system as water flows to residents’ homes, installing drinking water filters that have been certified to remove lead by the Water Quality Association or NSF can be an effective way, as an interim temporary measure, for families to reduce their lead exposure.
Given the limited numbers of filters available, they will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to Newark residents whose households meet at least one of the following three criteria:
- Residents who live in a home that has tested above 10 parts per billion for lead in tap water (this is not meant to imply that levels below 10 parts per billion are safe—using this World Health Organization guideline for lead in tap water is merely a priority-setting mechanism given the limited number of filters available);
- Residents who live in a home that has lead service lines or lead plumbing; or
- Residents who live in a home with a child or a pregnant person.
These criteria are intended to ensure that those households which are most at risk of exposure to elevated lead levels and those individuals who are most vulnerable to the associated health effects have access to filters.
Eligible residents may pick up a filter and a package of filter replacements (one set per household) at the following locations:
- Paradise Baptist Church on 15th Avenue in the Central Ward, 212-781-3310;
- La Casa de Don Pedro on Roseville Avenue in the North Ward, 973-485-0701;
- Ivy Hill Neighborhood Association on Sanford Avenue in the West Ward, 201-657-2865; and
- Unified Vailsburg Services Organization on Richelieu Terrace in the West Ward, 973-374-2000.
Each community organization will be coordinating their own distribution effort. For more information on how to receive a filter, please contact the organization directly.
In addition to a filter and package of replacements, each eligible household will receive instructions for how to use the filters in the residents’ preferred language among English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Based on average use, the filter company estimates that this should provide approximately nine months of protection for each home. Filters will be available for distribution as long as supplies last.
Of course, water filters for 1,400 households for nine months barely scratches the surface in a city of nearly 300,000 experiencing an ongoing public health emergency. Newark’s water system has exceeded the federal lead action level for three consecutive six-month monitoring periods, with recent results as high as 250 parts per billion—more than 16 times the action level. These levels are some of the highest recently recorded by a large water system in the country.
Ultimately, the City of Newark is responsible for controlling the corrosion of lead pipes to limit the amount of lead delivered to residents’ faucets and taking other steps required under the law to protect its residents. Unfortunately, city officials have been more focused on denying the problem than pursuing solutions. That’s why NRDC and NEW Caucus sued the City of Newark and state and city officials for numerous violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act on June 26, 2018.
Lead exposure is a critical environmental health issue and experts agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable; even low levels of lead are associated with serious, irreversible damage to children’s developing brains and nervous systems. Exposure to lead is also associated with miscarriages in pregnant women, as well as fertility problems, adverse cardiovascular and kidney effects, cognitive dysfunction, and elevated blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults.
NRDC purchased the filters for distribution after hearing repeatedly from residents who were concerned about being unable to afford the recommended interventions of bottled water or filters certified to remove lead. For families who aren’t able to get a free filter through this one-time program, consider these other steps you can take to limit your family’s exposure. If you are a resident and have any questions or concerns about lead in your drinking water, or if you work with another community organization that may be interested in participating in the filter distribution program, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related Blog Posts
Newark, New Jersey's drinking water lead levels are among the highest recorded by a large water system in the United States in recent years.
The State has estimated that there are approximately 22,100 homes in Newark with lead service lines.
The city’s drinking water crisis is putting residents’ health at risk.