Newark Drinking Water Crisis
What's At Stake
Lead-contaminated drinking water is threatening the health of Newark’s residents.
The levels of lead in Newark, New Jersey’s drinking water are some of the highest recently recorded by a large water system in the United States. And we know the cause: City and state officials are violating the Safe Drinking Water Act in several ways, such as failing to treat its water to prevent lead from flaking off from pipes into residents’ drinking water and neglecting to notify people about the elevated levels and the health risks.
Experts agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Pregnant women and children are most at risk: Even low lead levels are associated with serious, irreversible damage to developing brains and nervous systems. Lead exposure is also linked to fertility issues, cardiovascular and kidney problems, cognitive dysfunction, and elevated blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults.
The high lead levels are especially alarming because there has been long-standing concern about children’s exposure to toxic lead levels in Newark. For years, the city has had the greatest number of lead-poisoned children in New Jersey. This likely stems from a variety of exposures to lead, including from contaminated tap water and other sources. Indeed, 2016 tests revealed 30 public schools with elevated water lead levels.
NRDC, together with the Newark Education Workers Caucus, is fighting in court to ensure that the residents of Newark have access to safe, clean drinking water every time they turn on the tap.
Reporting, expert commentary, analysis, and more.
At least 25 percent of faucet filters examined as part of recent testing were improperly installed or maintained—meaning thousands of households may be affected.
We are troubled that Newark still is refusing to provide filters (much less bottled water) to about 30,000 households in the eastern part of the city, which officials claim are “unaffected” by the lead crisis.
In July 2019, Newark reported yet another exceedance of the 15 parts per billion federal action level for lead in drinking water—this time, lead levels are tapping in at 55 parts per billion, more than three times the federal action level.
Perhaps most problematic is the Newark's misguided insistence that areas of the city that are served by the Wanaque Treatment Plant—including the East Ward and parts of the North, Central, and South wards—are unaffected by lead in the city’s drinking water.
The number of free water filters and replacement cartridges that NEW Caucus, NRDC, and Newark community organizations distributed to try to help those impacted by the city's ongoing drinking water crisis.
Five Newark addresses tested in excess of 50 parts per billion of lead in their drinking water, more than three times the federal standard
Approximate number of homes in Newark with lead water pipes