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Polluted drinking water case settled in Newark, NJ

Yesterday a federal District Court Judge signed an Order ending a lawsuit against the City of Newark relating to lead in its drinking water. The lawsuit had been filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Newark Education Workers Caucus, alleging violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act for allowing Newark residents and workers to drink water with dangerously high lead levels. Lead levels had been reported to be three times what EPA guidelines authorize, although there really are no safe levels of lead.

Under the agreement contaminated service lines must be replaced free of charge by the City. Also under the Agreement, free drinking water must be provided to impacted persons before line replacement. And the NJDEP will report on Newark’s line replacement progress.

The City has lately undertaken an ambitious line replacement program. While Newark’s lead problem had been widely publicized, it is by no means the only City that has or has had lead problems. The lead problem as it relates to drinking water made national headlines when it was reported that Flint, Michigan’s water supply had high lead levels, reportedly linked to certain decisions by local government officials. Some of them, including a former Michigan governor, had criminal charges filed against them earlier this year directly relating to the lead crisis there.

Lead is not safe in drinking water at any level, even though federal guidance documents specify certain levels. Researchers cannot document any level that is truly safe, and the most impacted are young children. Lead ingestion causes many permanent and non-reversible health issues – some of which affect learning and cognitive abilities. According to the advocacy organization Clean Water Action, Lead is a very poisonous metal that affects almost every organ in the body and the nervous system. Exposure occurs through inhalation, ingestion and contact with the skin.

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