(Reuters) – Preliminary lead testing in New Jersey’s largest city, where old pipes are blamed for leaching the toxic metal into drinking water, show temporary filters are at least 97% successful in supplying clean water to residents, officials said on Monday.
A total of 1,700 samples taken from 300 homes showed the filters were 97% effective immediately “the moment the tap is opened” and 99% effective after “five minutes of flushing,” Governor Phil Murphy told a news conference.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is committed to replacing “every single lead service line” and so far has replaced 900 of them, the governor said. The expedited project was expected to take three years, and in the meantime residents were urged to use the filters and were promised a continuing supply of bottled water.
Lead can cause health problems, especially in children, even at microscopic levels.
The results were released a month after New Jersey unveiled a $120 million plan to speed up replacement of the aging pipes in response to mounting alarm over tainted drinking water.
Residents have been relying on bottled water since early August, when tests found that some of the water filters the city had previously distributed were not working properly. In October 2018, city officials began giving out some 38,000 water filters to residents to eliminate lead, the same type used in Flint, Michigan, a city that drew national attention in 2015 after children were poisoned by lead in the drinking water.
The city initially said it would take eight years to replace lead service lines connecting some 15,000 residential buildings across the city to the Pequannock reservoir system, at a cost of $75 million. But it ramped up the effort with a new bond issuance by Essex County that would have all pipes replaced within two to three years.
A Reuters investigation in 2016 found nearly 3,000 places in the United States with lead poisoning rates much higher than those seen in Flint, in many cases caused by decades-old flaking lead paint or aging lead pipes.
Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Marguerita Choy
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