Gov. Phil Murphy, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, cabinet members and local officials, on Wednesday toured a bottled water distribution center in Newark, announcing enhanced partnerships to promote access to clean water and conduct lead screenings for affected residents.
On Aug. 12, the state began providing bottled water to Newark for distribution to residents sourced from emergency reserves. Corporate partners, including Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi, will continue to supplement through donations.
Beginning Wednesday, University Hospital will start donating five free bottles of clean water to Newark residents who are discharged from inpatient stays during the month of August. The hospital will also conduct free lead screenings for impacted residents on Aug. 17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on subsequent Saturdays depending on demand.
In addition to screenings provided by University Health, the City of Newark is providing free lead screenings Monday through Friday.
Access to clean and safe drinking water is a fundamental right. The state and city’s efforts, in tandem with University Hospital and our corporate partners, will ensure that Newark residents have access to bottled water.
– Gov. Phil Murphy
The efforts come following notice that a small sampling of water filters provided to the city, and then to its residents, may not be removing lead to expected levels after test results provided on Aug. 9 came back positive.
“Access to clean and safe drinking water is a fundamental right,” said Murphy, speaking in Newark. “The state and city’s efforts, in tandem with University Hospital and our corporate partners, will ensure that Newark residents have access to bottled water.”
“Our priority is the health and welfare of all Newark residents, particularly the very young, pregnant women, and the elderly,” said Baraka. “Although there are only two homes where testing found that water filters are not working as expected, to be extremely cautious, we are providing bottled water to affected residents with lead service lines in their homes.
“We have distributed bottled water for the past two days. The City of Newark and the State of New Jersey are prepared to do everything possible to keep residents healthy,” Baraka added.
DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe stressed the importance of state and federal partners working together to ensure the health of Newark’s residents, “including providing an ample supply of bottled water while we work to better understand the effectiveness of filters provided to residents.”
“We are extremely grateful to University Hospital and our private partners for providing important assistance as we work to address this complex challenge,” she said. “We are mobilizing these efforts out of an abundance of caution to protect Newark’s residents in the short term while the city works to replace lead service lines and implement water treatment technologies that will protect public health in the long term.”
“We stand with the State and the City of Newark, and are proud to support their efforts in providing vital resources to our community,” said Shereef Elnahal, president and chief executive of University Hospital. “Everyone must have access to clean and safe drinking water. University Hospital is here to help the people of Newark.”
This year, the State has provided $1.8 million in lead testing funding and $12 million to support the City of Newark’s efforts to replace lead service lines.
Murphy said the state has been and will continue to stand side by side with Baraka and his team, and will do all that it can to get it right.
“We need the federal government to be the main actor in the long-term fix in America not just in Newark and New Jersey in terms of replacing and having a water infrastructure renaissance,” said Murphy.
In a Wednesday letter to EPA Regional Administrator for Region 2 Peter Lopez, New Jersey’s Congressional delegation also weighed in on the situation in Newark.
“Given your commitment to safeguard the residents of Newark and to advance the goal of protecting public health and the environment, we respectfully request your immediate assistance,” U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, and U.S. Reps. Albio Sires and Donald Payne Jr. wrote.
“No level of lead is acceptable for any child or pregnant woman,” Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Wednesday. “That’s why the Department of Health stands ready to support the city in addressing the health needs of its residents.”
Individuals wishing to receive a lead screening at University Hospital must make an appointment at (973) 972-9000.
NJBIZ’s Daniel J. Munoz contributed to this report.