Newark residents take city to court over drinking water crisis

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Newark residents and advocates have taken city officials to federal court over the ongoing crisis concerning lead-contaminated drinking water.

The concerned citizens filed a lawsuit demanding the city provide a safe source of drinking water for all city residents, not just some of them.

"We are filing for 10 cases of bottled water, door-to-door delivery per week to all the households, including households in the Wanaque water system, not just the Pequannock,” says Shakima Thomas with the Newark Water Coalition. “We are all affected here in Newark."

The Newark Water Coalition, along with the Natural Resources Defense and a Newark education workers caucus, filed the lawsuit Thursday at Newark Federal Court.

RELATED: Financial issues mean some Newark residents can’t avoid lead-tainted water 

Hundreds of city residents have already been receiving free cases of bottled water after water filters originally given to them proved to not be as effective as officials thought.

“Glad they’re taking some important steps forward by offering bottled water to many residents, but we need a long-term fix for this problem,” says Eric Olsen with the NRDC. “We’re going to need assistance from the state government and from the federal government to actually fix this problem.”

Newark residents receive their water from two sources – the Pequannock Water Treatment Plant and the Wanaque Water Treatment Plant. So far only residents serviced by Pequannock have been eligible for the free bottled water.

CONTINUING COVERAGE: Newark drinking water crisis
MORE: Newark drinking water situation FAQ

“We still have residents being denied water bottles. You have residents being denied filters. You have a lot of misinformation coming out of the administration,” says Anthony Dias with the Newark Water Coalition. “There’s not one clear set of protocols being followed, and this is a problem.”

Newark's lawyers argue it’s not the city's responsibility to pay for water for the Wanaque area residents, primarily because Newark doesn't handle Wanaque water – that is handled by an outside coalition not involved in the case at this time.

An expert testifying on behalf of Newark officials said measures taken this year have reduced the risk of lead contamination for those residents in the Wanaque service area.

Testimony is expected to continue Friday.

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