Newark employs local residents in effort to replace lead water pipes

Posted: Updated:

The city of Newark making progress in an effort to replace thousands of lead water service pipes and officials are looking for local residents to help them do it.

City officials say that so far 1,800 lead lines have been replaced with safe copper ones – about 10% of the lead lines in the city. Eastern Parkway is the latest to get torn up. Fifteen homes will get new lines to provide clean water for residents.

“We’ve replaced more than 50 lead service lines per day,” says Kareem Adeem, the acting director of the Newark Water and Sewer Department. “That gives us 250 per week, that’s minimum.”

Chris Nobles is one of the workers helping to replace the lines. He has a background in construction and recently took advantage of a two-week training program to get local labor involved. He's one of 14 to graduate from the course which grants him an apprenticeship for this kind of work.

"I'm not only going to get other people’s houses fixed, that means my house is going to get fixed. That means others that live in this area, that’s going to drink this water, that are worried about this situation, their situation is going to be better sooner than later,” Nobles says.

FULL COVERAGE: Lead-contaminated water crisis

Newer Mayor Ras Baraka stipulated that Montana Construction and another general contractor replacing these lines must hire Newark residents and minorities.

"Right now, we have 14 in the apprentice program, at least eight of them are presently working,” says David Muhammad with the Newark Office of Affirmative action. "It makes sense to me that someone can take pride who’s from here, born and raised, who lives here, that they can work on this project."

This is a significant project which was originally expected to take eight to 10 years to complete. But the infusion of $120 million from Essex County is speeding up the work. Completion is now expected in less than three years.

There is also a sense of pride for workers like Nobles, having learned a new skill and taking part in a major development for Newark.

The city is looking for more people to take part in the apprentice program. Once trained, city officials say those workers will be able to take their skills outside of Newark as cities all around the state prepare to replace lead service lines.

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