The water crisis in Newark city has severe implications for the health conditions of the residence. Recent tests run on drinking water reveal high concentrations of lead beyond the Federal government allowed limits. Samples tested have revealed limits of between 15.8 to 47.7 parts per billion. Experts reveal that escalated lead levels in water may affect the central nerve system, bring heart diseases, and other neurological disorders. The study investigates the effects of lead in drinking water to the people of Newark city. The study also highlights interventions by various stakeholders in response to the water crisis and how their action contributes to the management of the crisis. Such interventions include the A676 environment-water bill sponsored as a mitigation approach to the water problem. Finally, the research will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the bill and give recommendations.
Keywords: lead, water contamination, pipes
Effects of Contaminated Lead Water in Newark
Lead toxicity is a growing environmental concern with a significant effect on the human body. Countries such as the United States (US) and Canada have taken commendable steps to control leaching of lead into the water infrastructure. However, its properties such as ductility, softness, poor conductibility, malleability, and resistance to corrosion impede its management. Additionally, lead, and its compounds have beneficial values and occur in the industrial processes, such as smelting, printing books, making lead pipes, and manufacturing leaded gasoline. Irrespective of the substantial uses of lead in both industrial and domestic processes, the metal is highly toxic and affect virtually all organs in the entire human body. The authors further illustrate that the most affected areas by lead toxicity are the nervous system in both children and adults.
Given that the City of Newark, NJ has allowed lead levels in drinking water to escalate beyond the acceptable levels as per the tests conducted by the state Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is a serious violation given the severe medical effects to the citizens (Panico, 2019). The city management should control the anomalies to curb the looming health crisis. Although the City of Newark has provided residents with lead testing kits, the leadership should utilize a multi-sectoral approach to reduce lead levels in drinking water and manage its consequent health problems.
Lead Contaminated Water in Newark
Lead toxicity in Newark drinking water has reached crisis levels. According to Sol (2019), four consecutive monitoring within six months reveals elevated lead levels in water. Other related harmful element found in the city water includes high levels of haloacetic acids (HAAs) and turbidity violation, which are health hazards. It is also established that Newark’s officials have not conducted lead and copper rule sampling as required by law, thus failing to identify high content of metals in drinking water. As a result, the state department of environmental protection issued an alarm to Newark officials for exceeding the federal limits of acceptable lead in drinking water. According to the city officials, water provided to residents does not contain lead. In addition, they maintain that some challenges are witnessed in the treatment process to prevent corrosion from old lead pipes or plumbing fixes. Notably, the most affected are homes built before 1986 during which lead pipe was banned in Newark city. Approximately 15000 homes have fixed lead lines in the regions of Newark and New Jersey Sierra club (Kiefer, 2018). Sax (2018) indicates that the efforts to change water chemistry at the city treatment plant increased water contamination levels for 22000 households in 2017. It is significant that the city takes measures to normalize drinking water to prevent the adverse health crisis, especially for children.
Effects of Contaminated Lead Drinking Water
The overexposure to lead has several health implications for citizens. Wani et al. (2015) reveal that toxicity in blood cells of rats was caused by lead nitrate. According to the authors, impaired respiratory function was witnessed in employees exposed to lead due to high concentration and presence of zinc protoporphyrin. In addition, lead levels of between 25 and 60 μg/dL cause neuropsychiatric problems, such as irritability, delayed reaction times, and difficulty in concentration. Accordingly, adults also exhibit a slowed down motor nerve and headaches. Adults experience abdominal colic with paroxysms of pain and other indications such as encephalopathy, delirium, the rise of pressure within the skull and migraines. Although increased levels of lead exposures precipitate such conditions, Sol (2019) confirms the danger exposed to Newark city residents through research where 90 percentile of the water samples tested revealed an averaged 47.5 parts per billion, which is three times higher than the acceptable federal standards. Given the potential effect on adults, the government should implement remedial measures to mitigate the current health threats.
Children and pregnant mothers are more vulnerable to lead toxicity. Lead levels that may be safe for adults can reduce mental and physical development of children. Further, when children play with dust and dirt, which are substantial sources of lead contamination, they are double exposed. The impact is significant to warrant an advisory note from the department of health in the New Jersey, urging families to utilize bottled water for infants fed with formula until water filters are installed (Kiefer, 2018). Hanna-Attisha, LaChance, Sadler, and Champney Schnepp (2016) confirm that tap water contributes to more than 85% lead exposure to infants who consume reconstituted formula. Lead is also an abortifacient and has links to fetal deaths and underweight children at birth. The government should develop frameworks that caution pregnant mothers and children from lead exposure through an interdisciplinary approach.
The potential impacts of lead consumption are hazardous to the population. Newark’s city implements a testing strategy to manage the looming crisis and prevent further escalation. Newark has delivered 40000 filters to residents with higher risk exposure levels as a mitigation step (Sax, 2018; Muoio & Sam, 2018). The action is significant towards creating awareness of the various effects of the exposure to lead and other metals for citizens to understand its impacts. Although the Newark water crisis relates to more than a decade ago, lead leaching is likely to have started when the city implemented lowing pH levels in water to manage cancer-related compounds, such as haloacetic acid and trihalomethanes acid. Therefore, toxicity is found in water since metal toxicity such as lead thrives at lower pH levels. Therefore, testing strategy and awareness campaign should continue to build more knowledge and limit exposure to chemicals.
Role of Water Official in Water Termination
The municipal officials play a critical role in delivering clean and safe water to the residents of Newark city. However, systemic challenges have contributed to the current stalemate. One of the contributing factors is the violation of the safe drinking water act by the state officials (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2018). The representatives have failed to treat water, a factor that has resulted in flaking of lead from the pipes into the drinking water. The problem progresses even further, where the state officials fail to alert the residents about the elevated levels of lead in the drinking water and the resultant health risks. Failure to notify the public concerning the increased levels of lead in the drinking water has contributed to the increasing number of health complications and mortality rate.
Local residences together with other regulatory organization have sought for court redress on the matter. The litigation has caused massive pressure on the city officials who have initiated a plan to provide water filters to the residents (the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2018). The municipal officials maintain that although water is under their jurisdiction, they do not own service lines that connect homes (Kiefer, 2018). Hence, lead contaminations occur within the connected pipes that supply water to houses. As such, the issue only affects homes with lead service lines. Accordingly, city officials in partnership with the Newark Department of Health and Community among other healthcare providers have developed a partnership to assist residents who wish to find out their health status. By providing a telephone contact – 973-733-6303” for support and a website –https://www.newarkleadserviceline.com/, residents who feel susceptible to the health problem can seek treatment (Kiefer, 2018). City official can manage the crisis by taking responsibility and involving other partners to support the affected individuals.
Bill A676; Environment-Water Supply
The Lead crisis necessitated various interventions. Democrat representatives Mila Jasey, Carol Murphy, and Raj Mukherji funded the environment-water supply bill A676 to push institutions of higher learning to initiate periodic assessments of their drinking water outlets to ascertain lead levels (Jasey, Mukherji, & Murphy, 2019). If the bill l is passed, the policy will ensure that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Secretary of Higher Education support all institutions of higher learning with technical capabilities to conduct tests within certified laboratories to ascertain the levels of lead contamination. Such approaches will enhance responsibility levels and resolve the problem.
Advantages of the Bill
Passing the bill will provide an opportunity for frequent testing of water to ascertain lead levels. The initiative will act as a remedial measure to maintain quality and standards of water. The bill will also offer information about the status of water safety in the city to the public Since the bill would require the institution to publish information through the internet, it will form a basis of public engagement and open discussions with stakeholders on how to mainstream issues related with water safety. In addition, the bill encourages testing the presence of lead metal in water sources, hence it provides an opportunity to control contaminated sources from further contamination. The bill will enhance environmental protection initiatives since all the institutions will be required to conduct a test and submit the results in accordance with the texting and sampling approaches indicated in the technical guidance. Therefore, all the stakeholders will play their part in ensuring that the city is supplied with clean and uncontaminated water. Overall, the bill will improve the health status and lower treatment cost for residents.
Disadvantages of the Bill
However, the bill will pose a threat to houses or real estate developers within the areas supplied with lead water pipes. Besides, the bill may pose a threat to people by creating fear and tension about their health, if they discover that they had consumed contaminated water with traces of lead. On the other hand, consumers may initiate legal process towards the city management, which might derail the implementation process. The supply of water to various institutions may be affected in case the remedy necessitates closing of water outlets. The bill may also pose a challenge, especially if results posted on websites are not scrutinized for accuracy. For instance, if a test sample of a particular region wrongly reveals that the contamination is behold the required limits; the homeowners may relocate while potential buyers’ preferences may also change, and hence unfairly affecting the developers and consequently the economy of the city.
- Newark’s city management should ensure all the lead lines extending to homes are replaced as an urgent measure to prevent further leaching of lead and other metals in drinking water.
- The treatment chemistry applied for water is faulty since it fails to manage lead contaminations. Although the city claims to implement reduced water pH to manage various cancer-related compounds in water, they must rethink their strategy and apply an integrated approach for the two significant scenarios.
- Although substantial efforts are taken by providing telephone contact and a website for suspected victims, the city official should schedule campaign within affected areas to create awareness and support residents to take medical steps and manage the possible effects generated by the crisis.
As it is evident from the research, water is a requirement for every household. Residents of Newark have a right to clean and safe water for consumption. Therefore, it is important that city official in collaboration with other governmental bodies provide the commodity in reasonable and safe quantities to the residences. Further, the effects of elevated lead levels in water consumed by adults, children, and pregnant mothers should not be ignored. Although the cost of replacing the lead pipes to all homes is expensive, it cannot be compared to the lives of children who form the integral future of a nation and the health dangers to adults. Therefore, it is important to approach the issue through both legislation and public partnerships to save the population from the adverse effects of water contamination.