Newark is not Flint’: Mayor sets the record straight during State of Water event

Updated:

Newark city officials held the State of Water town hall event Wednesday evening to updated the public on the drinking water contamination issue that has been plaguing the city for months.

The panel discussion was held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Mayor Ras Baraka used the meeting as a forum to provide the public with facts and to debunk myths. He said that the water in Newark’s schools is safe. He also said that it was safe to bathe in.

Baraka also used it to advocate for Newark and to lash out at those who said that he lied about the lead levels in the water.

"Don't tell businesses to leave the city. Stop telling people our water is poisonous. Stop advocating for other cities to stop buying Newark’s water. Stop creating panic in our town,” Baraka said.

FULL COVERAGE: Newark Water Crisis

The mayor also held up paperwork dating back to 2017 showing that city residents were informed through their water bills and other methods to be wary of lead levels in the water.

“Newark is not Flint,” Baraka said. “Not only did we pay for new corrosion control and set it up so it could be injected in the water, we spent over $1 million to buy Newark residents filters."

Baraka also said that the city has started to replace 18,000 lead service lines with copper pipes. He said that 1,000 water lines have already been replaced.

“We’re actually trying to change 1,000 lead lines per month,” he said.

 
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City officials are also still giving out water filters to residents – and pushing the data that if they flush those water filters for about five minutes, the filters will be 99% effective at keeping out lead.

"If you're still concerned you can call the water department. Let us come out and test your house,” said Kareem Adeem, acting director of water and sewer utilities.

But there were some Baraka detractors in the crowd that stood up to express their anger at the situation.

“How critical is the water? Can we give it to our children? Can we bathe in it?” one man shouted. To which, the mayor answered, “Yes.”

That man and others wearing shirts that said Black Panther Party and members of the Newark Water Coalition were eventually removed. They have been critical of City Hall, claiming officials haven't been telling the truth about the water.

The panel also told Newark’s parents to make sure that they have their young children tested for lead exposure.

"Unborn, newborn and infants are at greatest risk their brains are developing. Once we get beyond 5 or 6, the risk drops dramatically,” said Dr. Mark Wade of Newark Health and Community.

City officials said that they have so far handed out 123,000 cases of bottled water to residents. They will begin pulling back on the free bottled water now that the water filters are reliable.

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