Oct 04, 2019

What Caused Water Filter Failures in Newark, N.J.?

This editorial originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Water Quality Products magazine as "Filter Fiasco"

water quality products editorial discusses filters and lead crisis in Newark, N.J.

We place our trust in water filters–especially certified filters–to protect our homes and families, but what happens when a filter fails to remove contaminants to safe levels? Residents of Newark, N.J., are grappling with this fear after the safety of nearly 40,000 filters distributed by the city for lead removal were called into question.

Since October 2018, the city has distributed nearly 40,000 point-of-use filters certified for lead removal to residents facing lead contamination, particularly those in the south and west parts of the city serviced by the Pequannock Water Treatment Plant, according to The New Jersey Spotlight. 

In August 2019, however, the U.S. EPA recommended that residents turn to bottled water after preliminary tests found the filtration devices were not removing lead to below the EPA’s drinking water standard of 15 ppb. As of press time, the city of Newark will conduct additional testing and distribute bottled water in the interim. The Water Quality Assn. has issued a statement of support for the EPA’s recommendation.

So why did the filters fail to effectively remove lead? One possibility is that the filters, which were certified to remove lead up to 150 ppb, were not able to remove lead at such high concentrations. Of the homes tested, one of the homes contained 1,600 ppb of lead before the filter and 57.9 ppb post-filtration. The filter was never intended to treat water under such extreme conditions.

Another factor to consider is potential error in installation and maintenance. Without providing residents with proper training on filter installation and care, a filter may not be able to perform optimally or continue to perform. 

Water treatment is not “one size fits all.” While one filter may work perfectly well for one home, the neighboring home may require a very different system. In times like this where public health and filter effectiveness are being called into question, water treatment professionals need to raise their voices and work to educate consumers regarding effective installation and proper maintenance practices. What do you think? What has caused the filter failures and how can we, as an industry, step up to help consumers receive safe water and piece of mind? Email me at [email protected].

Lauren Del Ciello managing editor
WQP Managing Editor Lauren Del Ciello


About the author

Lauren Del Ciello | Managing Editor | [email protected]