Newark Fast Tracks Lead Pipe Replacement

City workers bring Newark residents. Image: Andrew Maclean | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

We wrote the other week about Newark’s ongoing water crisis and the city’s plan to distribute bottled water to residents after water filters that were previously made available to the public lacked the ability to filter out lead. Now New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced a new $120 million plan yesterday to fast-track the process of replacing all lead service pipes throughout the city. As the New York Times explained, a new financing plan will allow the city to replace the 18,000 buried lead service lines in the next 24 to 30 months, a significant change from what city officials had estimated would take 10 years to complete.

The Financing: CBS reported that “under the plan, Essex County will issue a $120 million bond to replace the problematic lead service pipes. It drastically speeds up the ongoing project, which was initially scheduled to take eight to 10 years. With the new investment, the work should get underway in a couple of weeks and could be completed in just two or three years.” City and county officials are expected to take a final vote on the plan and approve it this week to allow the city to take bids from contractors.

The Scale: The Times also noted that a water line replacement project the size and scale of Newark’s would be a first for New Jersey, and among the first projects of its kind in the nation given the compressed time frame. The project is made more difficult by the fact that the pipes are laid mostly under private property and the city cannot act unilaterally to excavate them; residents need to request a replacement and then grant access to the city’s contractors. In Newark, where 70 percent of residents are renters, it can be difficult to track down landlords.

Why This Matters: According to the UN, clean water is a human right, and sadly one that is not being provided consistently across the United States. Last night during the MTV VMAs, protestors descended on the venue to express their anger at the general lack of awareness of Newark’s water crisis. In the interim, until Newark’s pipes are replaced, residents cannot be guaranteed clean drinking water and it’s unclear how this might affect their health.

 

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