FutureStructure

Newark N.J.'s Crumbling Water Pipe Repairs to Cost $1 Billion+

The mayor of Newark, N.J., is asking for help for what he claims is a infrastructure challenge stretching beyond his city's borders.

by / March 30, 2016
Newark, N.J. Wikimedia Commons/ Doug Kerr

Newark, N.J., Mayor Ras Baraka is asking for outside help with the state’s water system, which the city says will cost more than $1 billion to renovate, according to NJ.com. The water of about 30 schools throughout the city have tested positive for lead, mostly at safe levels, as a result of aging lead pipes and solder joints.

At the request of Government Technology, a city spokesperson clarified via email that the issue is isolated to those schools and that “at no sample point has the water in the Newark water system shown elevated levels of lead.”

Speaking at an educational forum on March 28, Baraka said the problem expands beyond his city's schools and that the burden should not fall on Newark alone.

"They are making discoveries that this issue is not just a Northern Jersey problem," Baraka said. "There has to be a statewide problem.”

The city doesn’t have the funds to complete the repairs, he said, adding that one possibility might be found in a bill now being planned that would create a 10-cent bottle deposit to raise funds.

In response to fears raised by forum attendees that children are being exposed to contaminated water, Newark Water and Sewer Director Andrea Adebowale said that 50 sites around the city were tested last year and most tests returned lead levels not considered dangerous. The city plans to do those tests every six months, instead of the federally required three years, because of the age of the infrastructure, Adebowale added.

Though the city faces a challenge, the news coverage by NJ.com does not portray the issue accurately, the spokesperson told Government Technology.

"While Newark’s water system can certainly use upgrading," he said, "it is not at the crisis point suggested by [that] article."

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.