Crossing Water, an advocacy group founded to provide outreach in Flint during the water crisis, will be headed to Newark, New Jersey this week. Newark has recorded elevated of lead in its water for several years.
In 2016, 30 schools in Newark Public Schools tested with lead levels above 15 parts per billion (the federal action level). In 2017, the district reported that at some schools, including elementary schools, child-accessible water outlets recorded lead levels at 15.4 ppb. This was of concern because Newark Public Schools gets its water from the same system that serves homes and businesses.
Subsequent studies done in 2016 and 2017 say the city’s water system is old and outdated, and further consultation in 2018 stated that water treatment performed at one of Newark’s two treatment plants was ineffective, which caused corrosion of lead pipes and plumbing throughout the city. The mayor of Newark even wrote an open letter to President Trump in 2019, asking for federal funds to help fix the infrastructure.
The city began regular testing in 2017, with water consistently recording above the 15 ppb action level. In October 2018, Newark agreed to install filters in the homes of certain parts of the city as recorded lead levels continued to be above the 15 ppb federal action limit. Elevated levels persisted through 2019. In August of 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency warned the city that the filters were not working, and the city began distributing bottled water to residents. The bottled water distribution was discontinued in October. At the beginning of January, the city had replaced 4,474 out of 18,000 service lines in the city.
Michael Hood is the founder and one of the directors of Crossing Water. He said there are a lot of parallels between Flint, but Newark has received far less media attention.
“It's a vulnerable, under-served population of people, an urban situation, a lot of folks who don't have a lot of money and don't have a lot of resources, and they're struggling to have clean water," Hood said. "It's a very similar situation in Flint.”
Crossing Water was founded by Hood and his partner, Laurie Carpenter, in 2016. Their staff, made up entirely of volunteers, provided community outreach in Flint during the water crisis, and continues to be an active presence in the community.
“Putting in filters, dropping off water, checking on people's welfare, doing social services and medical referrals, and so much more," Hood said. "You know, plumbing, point of use filters, you name it.”
Hood says the volunteers need to actively observe the situation in Newark before moving forward, but they have the skeleton of plans for the future.
“So once we do our recon trip, we’re going to send two or three teams out to do trainings, to do in-home visits with residents and train up their staff and their volunteers to do water filters and to be educated about the nuances of these filters: how they work, how they don’t work… how best to ensure the safety of young children when they have lead in the water in households and those kinds of things.”