Well, turns out Flint, Michigan is not the only state and city dealing with elevated levels of lead in their water. News has surfaced, after a series of recent tests, that 30 out of the 66 public schools in Newark, NJ exceeded the EPA standards for levels of lead in drinking water (Source). The EPA standard is 15 parts per billion, which requires expanded testing, monitoring, and remediation when exceeded. Schools have temporarily shut down all of their water fountains and posted notes on water faucets, advising people not to drink from them (Source). Although this is a relatively new phenomenon in NJ, there is evidence piling up that suggests school officials in Newark were concerned about the presence of lead in the school’s water as far back as 2014 (Source). That is 2 years ago; this is something that is completely unacceptable based on the seriousness of the matter. Exposure to lead is commonly associated with dire health effects like brain damage and kids are considered especially vulnerable.
However, despite past concerns and knowing lead exposure leads to bad health effects, Newark officials seemed to ignore the matter. In a 2014 letter to senior staff, the district’s managing director of operations advised school staff to take measures that are “pursuant to the Federal Lead Contamination Control Act” to “further ensure that lead levels are at acceptable levels” (Source). What this shows is there was an increasing concern that lead levels may not have been at acceptable levels even back in 2014. Now, if people were expressing concerns about elevated levels of lead in Newark 2 years ago, why was there nothing done about it? There is no direct answer to that question yet, but it has become obvious this is not a new revelation in Newark.
Local officials have denied that the tests reveal an elevated level of lead in the water; however, they attribute it to New Jersey’s crumbling infrastructure. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said: “We need to commit ourselves at the federal, state, and local levels to addressing infrastructure issues in our communities that have gone unaddressed and underfunded for many years” (Source).
As the state of NJ takes this approach to address the problem, the test results convey the message that 11 cities and 2 counties in NJ have higher lead levels than Flint, Michigan. At this point, everyone knows about the Flint Water Crisis but no one knows about this crisis in NJ. Irvington, Paterson, East Orange, Trenton, Newark, Jersey City, Plainfield, Elizabeth, Atlantic City, New Brunswick, and Passaic are the 11 cities in NJ that are reported to have higher lead levels than Flint (Source). This development is particularly hard for me because I am a New Jersey resident; now, I do not live in one of these affected areas but I live close and this one hits home. The fact this has not been reported on the mainstream news is absolutely absurd since Flint gets all the coverage about its water crisis, but NJ is left off the news. I am not sure why this has not been getting any mainstream news coverage, but regardless the apparent crisis needs to be addressed. If the President of the United States can declare an emergency in Flint from elevated lead levels, then he can do the same for NJ. Chris Christie is not doing anything to help the state by vetoing bills that would set aside money to the lead control assistance fund, which he has done 3 years in a row (Source). The Federal Government must step in and assist the state of NJ as much as they can.