It’s a weeknight in Newark’s West Ward. Roughly two dozen residents sit patiently waiting for city Department of Water and Sewer Utilities officials to start a presentation.
“About the water updates and the lead service line replacement discussion,” announces a city official, asking residents to take their seats.
“My home has been tested,” said Daniel Gibson, a retired West Ward resident. “I do have a lead service line and I’m awaiting the city coming in to take it out.”
Gibson has lived in his Newark home for over 35 years and says he’s taken notice to the city’s efforts to address the water crisis.
“I’ve never seen this kind of attention shown by any administration,” he said. “I’m going back to the Addonizio administration, Ken Gibson administration, Sharpe James administration, Cory Booker administration and now Ras Baraka.”
Newark resident Jackie McCoy agrees. She’s also waiting to have her lead service line replaced.
“It’s been smooth so far,” she said. “When they first told us about the water problem, they knocked on our doors that very first Saturday and handed us the filters. I sent out the information and they followed up with if I wanted to have the pipes changed. They came out and tested the water and now I’m just waiting for them to come out and change the pipes.”
Statistics on the city’s Newark Lead Service Line dot com website show roughly one-third of the 18,000 pipes across the city have already been replaced, leaving some of those residents concerned over the restoration of sidewalks. While some properties in Newark have fresh concrete where the work was done, others are left with a patch of asphalt, an eyesore for some homeowners. Kareem Adeem, acting director of the city’s Department of Water and Sewer Utilities explains the black top is a temporary fix.
“We come back in the summer as the ground settles and replace it with concrete,” he said.
Adeem says they’re replacing an average of up to 95 lead service lines a day.
“If the weather co-operates, we’ll be able to keep up that 95 or more,” he said. “If it gets too cold, we’re still working in all extreme weather conditions, but we won’t know if we’re able to keep the pace if it’s below 20 or 10 to replace that 100 a day.”
Adeem is reminding residents that have had their lines replaced to still be mindful of their water, which could still report lead exceedances.
“When we replace your pipe, we leave you instructions and you need to follow those,” Adeem said. “Every day flush the water for ten minutes, change the sink aerators, and use your filters. We want the orthophosphate to keep working, and if any lead was disturbed in your internal plumbing during the replacement process, that you’re flushing it out by following those instructions.”
Newark officials expect to reach their goal of replacing every lead service line in the city within 24 to 30 months.
The city of Newark is hosting its next Lead Service Line Replacement Program meeting at Third Presbyterian Church in the North Ward on Tuesday, February 4.