Newark, New Jersey temporarily halted its distribution of bottled water to city residents after elevated lead levels were found in at least two homes, because the bottles had past their “best-by” dates.
“We found out on Monday, after we started distributing the water, that the bottles were expired,” said Frank Baraff, a spokesman for Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. “We immediately went back to the state and ordered more bottles.”
Baraff said the fact that the bottles were past their expiration dates would not impact the safety of the water, but that as a precaution the city had stopped the distribution of 20,000 bottles on Tuesday morning until a new shipment arrived later that day.
Al Moussab, a Newark resident and local history teacher who is suing the city over the water issue, told ABC News he is “infuriated” at the “pathetic” response from both local and federal leaders, who he said are not taking this problem as seriously as they should.
“Lead is so scary because you can’t see it, taste it or smell it and the effects are terrible, especially for young children and their brain development,” Moussab said. “So it is nerve racking as both and teacher and a parent.”
Moussab said his six years-old daughter was enrolled in a school where elevated lead levels were detected and that he was frustrated by calls for residents to be patient while the city measures the effectiveness of its new corrosion control treatment.
“How many people are getting hurt in the meantime?” he said.
Newark began distributing water bottles to residents after the U.S. Environment Protection Agency tested three homes that used filters distributed to residents by the city and found that two showed lead levels nearly four times the allowable federal lead limit after going through the filters distributed to residents, according to The Star Ledger. Those tests triggered the water distribution.
“Out of an abundance of caution” the EPA requested that Newark provide bottled water for drinking and cooking to residents who have lead service lines and are relying on city-provided filters, until the results of the filter-testing are fully understood, additional sampling is performed, and a reliable solution can be implemented, an EPA spokesperson told ABC News.
The EPA said the tests at the three homes were done to evaluate the corrosion control treatment in the system, and not the filter’s effectiveness.
“Through the study, the City was conducting strategic baseline sampling at three homes in different parts of the city,” the spokesman said.
In a statement, Sen. Cory Booker — the former Newark mayor and now a presidential candidate — along with Sen. Robert Mendez and Reps. Albio Sires and Donald Payne Jr. penned a letter to the EPA calling for more “immediate assistance” from the federal government.
“While we appreciate the technical assistance EPA has provided to the City of Newark to date, we urge EPA to identify additional resources to offer assistance in providing bottled water to Newark residents in order to ensure a sustained source of clean drinking water while further sampling is conducted,” the officials said.