Newark Lead Water Crisis: New Jersey Governor Says It Will Take Weeks to Test Filters As City Hands Out Bottled Water

The governor of New Jersey has admitted it could take weeks to determine why recently installed filters to help deal with Newark's lead water crisis are not working correctly.

Phil Murphy also ruled out declaring a state of emergency in the city, where thousands of households are relying on bottled water, after it emerged the Pequannock treatment plant failed to prevent lead from corroding off pipes and into the water supply.

On August 9, the Environmental Protection Agency recommended that Newark residents be provided with bottled water to drink and cook with after its analysis revealed that tens of thousands of household lead filters provided to residents of the Pequannock service area last year "may not be performing as expected."

The move to hand out the filters was a temporary measure while the city works towards replacing its thousands of decades-old lead service lines, which could take several years.

Murphy said it still could be some time until they have enough data to determine why the filters failed.

"People [are] asking all the time, when are we going to know more than we know? And I think it's a matter of weeks in terms of the more testing we're doing now. We sure as heck need more than three data points and so we're in that process right now," Murphy said following a state meeting with county and city representatives, reports

"It's too early to tell what the results are. I'm not a chemist, but my gut tells me there will be multiple hundred tests before we can draw conclusions." Murphy added that currently around 20 homes are being tested every day.

Elsewhere, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka responded to Assemblyman Jamel Holley's call for a state of emergency be declared over the crisis and that the National Guard take over the distribution of bottled water.

"Let me be clear about one thing: the City of Newark is not interested in turning over our water source to any outside entity," Baraka replied in a letter to Holley obtained by NJ Advance Media.

"Water leaving our two treatment facilities is in full compliance with all lead corrosion treatment requirements, and our source water remains clean. It is the last stretch of water pipes, located on private property, where outdated lead services lines may be present.

"It is also important to understand that we need to take further action, which is why the City launched a new corrosion control system in May.

"Experts expect to see a reduction in lead levels by the end of this year if enough orthophosphate is circulated within the system," Baraka added.

newark lead water
A pallet of bottled water is delivered to a recreation center on August 13, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. New Jersey's governor Phil Murphy said it could take weeks to determine why household filters installed to help deal with Newark's lead water crisis are not working. Spencer Platt/Getty