Newark Water Crisis


Newark Water Crisis

The Amazon rainforest is still burning. Hurricane Dorian looms toward Florida. The president skipped a G7 session on climate change because the issue is too niche. In the midst of all this, Newark, New Jersey, faces a water crisis: there’s lead in the drinking water.

In October 2018 officials tested the tap water and found elevated levels of lead. They distributed faucet filters — the same kind that were used in Flint, Michigan, where a similar clean water crisis has been ongoing since 2014. These filters were meant to remove the lead that leached into the tap water from lead service pipes. 

Two weeks ago new tests found that some of the filters failed to remove the lead. Just like Flint, Newark was forced to distribute water bottles. Just like Flint, last week saw New Jerseyans in lines a hundred people deep, waiting to receive bottled water. Newark has thousands more lead service lines than Flint, and most of these service lines run under private property.

On Monday, August 26, Newark officials announced a $120 million plan to replace 18,000 lead service pipes in the next 24 to 30 months. According to Mayor Ras Baraka, city officials initially estimated that this plan would take a decade to complete. City and county officials are working to approve the financing, after which contractors will present bids to the city.

Since most of the lead service lines are laid under private property, the pipe replacement project presents some tricky obstacles. City officials cannot unilaterally replace the pipes without property owners’ consent. Yet Mayor Baraka said that he hopes to work with legislators to create a new law or ordinance that would allow city contractors to replace lead service lines on private property without permission.

Approximately 800 of Newark’s 18,000 lead service lines have been replaced in 2019.

Do you have an idea on how city and municipal officials can work together to help Newark fix the water crisis? Get in touch with us at or leave a comment.


Corasaniti, Nick, “Newark Water Crisis: Racing to Replace Lead Pipes in Under 3 Years,” The New York Times, August 26, 2019.

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