May 15, 2019

Newark, N.J., Adds Orthophosphates to Combat High Lead Levels

Orthophosphates are being added to a New Jersey drinking water system to combat lead levels

Orthophosphates are being added to a New Jersey drinking water system to combat lead levels

Officials from Newark, N.J., have announced that orthophosphates are being added to the city’s water system to reduce high levels of lead in drinking water.

According to PIX11, the city distributed 36,000 water filters to residents. The city also has implemented a lead service line removal program. Water samples show lead levels around 67 ppb, however, some homes tested much higher.

“Orthophosphate works by tying up the lead that is in the water and it forms a coating on the pipes,” said Sarah Kutzing, a water consultant hired by the city, to PIX11. “That coating on the pipes essentially acts as a physical barrier to prevent the water from being in contact with the walls of the lead pipe.”

According to PIX11, the federal limit for lead in drinking water is 15 ppb. Officials have said it could take months for the orthophosphates to take effect.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Kareem Adeem, acting water department director, to PIX11. “We are expecting that we may see our fifth exceedance in July.”

The water system goes to the homes of 280,000 city residents, plus residents of neighboring towns. According to PIX11, a lawsuit is still pending against Newark over the high lead levels in its water. The city has sought emergency action to get water filters in all homes in Newark.

“A city that has close to 300,000 people, why have they only distributed 36,000 water filters?” said Lisa Parker, a Newark resident and plaintiff in the suit, to PIX11.

On Tuesday, May 14, plaintiffs questioned if the recent cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the city can be linked to the water issues.

“First of all, it lives in hot water,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to PIX11. “It’s breathed through mist. It is not given to people through drinking water. Those are two separate completely different issues.”

Legionella has not been tested in the city’s drinking water system, according to PIX11. Catherine McCabe, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, has said the department will examine concerns about Legionella.