Flint doctor about Newark water: ‘There is no safe level of lead’

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A doctor from Flint, Michigan, who helped prove there were dangerous toxins in that water system, spoke to Newark residents Wednesday – a city that has been dealing with dangerously high levels of lead in its drinking water.

Dr. Mona Attisha is a pediatrician who got involved in Flint's water problems when a mother asked her if the water was safe for her baby. She soon found it wasn't.

"We had a home with a lead level of 22,000 [parts-per-billion],” Attisha said.

Newark residents who turned out for the event say that they are living under a public health emergency thanks to the lead levels in their water. They say that they are worried about using the water to drink or cook with. Newark’s water recently tested at more than three times the amount of lead allowable by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"There is no safe level of lead. None,” Attisha told the crowd.

RELATED: Newark residents hold rally, demand cleaner drinking water 

Newark's latest water testing came back with lead levels of 52 parts-per-billion. The EPA says anything over 15 is dangerous to your health.

In addition to high levels of lead, Attisha said that there is another similarity between Newark and Flint.

"The water wasn't being treated properly. It was missing a corrosion control…Something called Orthophosphate,” she says.

Newark started pumping Orthophosphate through its water treatment plant in Pequannock in May. Orthophosphate coats the water pipes to keep the lead from releasing into the water. But the process can take months.

Newark city officials say they've already replaced 175 lead service lines and handed out 38,000 water filters. Filters and lead test kits were given to anyone in need at Wednesday’s meeting.

Newark Department of Water & Sewer Utilities acting director Kareem Adeem said in a statement, "We continue to urge all impacted homeowners to sign up for the lead service line replacement program, as that is the only way to permanently remove the risks of lead in water."

But Newark remains under pressure. The Natural Resources Defense Council is taking the city to federal court in August to force a quicker cleanup.

"We have asked the court to order the state and city to clean up the lead out of the water. And pull out lead service lines, those pipes in the ground,” says Eric Olson with the Council.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says that Newark has one of the highest lead levels in the nation. The Council is also pushing the city to replace all of the old lead service lines running into homes for free. Homeowners currently have to pay $1,000 to have it done.

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