Officials in Newark, New Jersey, have closed the water lines for 30 schools in the Public Schools system due to the discovery of lead and discoloration. In a Wednesday announcement, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection and school district are using water from other sources, the Huffington Post reports.
While not quite on the scale of the crisis in Flint, Michigan and other cities, news of the water ban in Newark has triggered widespread concern. However, officials emphasized that the 30 schools given the water ban are the only known instances of lead while adding that the citywide water source is not affected.
Huffington Post reports:
“The problem is localized in the finite number of schools, and those are the schools that are the oldest and still have lead piping,” Frank Baraff, the city’s communications director, told The Huffington Post Wednesday. The city’s water supply is “perfectly safe,” he said.
Baraff, who said the school district and state officials are committed to total transparency as they work to alleviate the issue, also stressed that the situation is not as severe as the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Still, there was no mistaking the seriousness of the issue. The affected buildings range from high schools to elementary schools citywide. Baraff said he’s been communicating with local hospitals in the area, and that families have already started bringing in their children for blood tests.
Baraff sternly warned to the public that they should not “drink the water” at the schools.
Newark joins a growing list of cities with large and often impoverished communities of color complaining of contaminated water, which include the aforementioned Flint, Mich., Jackson Miss., and St. Joseph, La.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark, has promised that his office will take measures to examine the root of the water issue in the city. Sen. Booker said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned” about the nature of the ban and said that he will offer assistance.
Rep. Donald Payne Jr., who grew up in Newark, issued a statement from his office, also stating his concerns regarding the alarming news:
While the state’s Department of Environmental Protection has indicated that the water system poses no health risks to our students, the situation underscores the need for action to fix or replace lead-contaminated water pipes that threaten the city’s safety.
I traveled to Flint, Michigan last week to raise awareness of that city’s water crisis. The last thing I want to see is a repeat of that crisis in my home city.
Baraff could not offer a timetable as to when the situation would be completely alleviated.
New York news outlet WPIX reports that officials in the city allegedly knew of the lead problem ahead of Wednesday’s announcement.