Problem solving related to lead in the water has absorbed the time and attention of Newark officials, who held a health fair and information session for residents Wednesday at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Residents were able to get free lead screenings and sign up for new water lines ahead of a town hall the city is holding to discuss the city’s ongoing water issues.
“Some people don’t want to go to the doctor, so this may be the closest thing they get,” said Newark resident Mildred Wiggins. “It’s very informative for the community and it should be done more often.”
Several city departments were present at the fair, as was the PUR Water Company, which offered instructions to attendees on how to properly install the filters it distributed to city residents.
Newark Water Crisis: City Takes Big Step To ‘Solve Own Problems’
On Tuesday, Mayor Ras Baraka hosted a press conference at City Hall to release details about a reworked deal with the Port Authority, which maintains several transportation facilities in the Brick City, including Newark Liberty International Airport and Port Newark.
Port Authority officials have agreed to give Newark an extra $5 million annually for the duration of the lease, which will run for 30 years. Newark already receives $110 million per year from the agency, CBS New York reported.
Newark will also get a $5 million upfront payment as part of the reworked lease agreement, Baraka said.
Baraka told CBS that city officials plan to “use as much of it as we can if not all” of the new funds for debt service towards a $120 million loan that Essex County recently helped it to secure. That loan is turbocharging the city’s efforts to replace about 18,000, privately owned lead service lines, the main suspected culprit behind the contamination.
- See related article: Essex County Helps Newark Nab $120M In Loans For Water Crisis
- See related article: Newark Replacing Lead Pipes In Homes; 800 Done, 17000 To Go
“We have been in talks with the Port Authority over our lease agreement and, clearly, this money comes at a fortuitous time for us,” Baraka stated.
The mayor said officials will also be able to add the new funds to the municipal budget to “support city services” or “make some capital improvements.”
“I’ve always said the ports and airport are assets for this city that we could better utilize,” Baraka added. “This money is another example of this city using its own resources to solve our own problems.”
- See related article: Here’s How To Get A Slice Of The $2.7B Pie At Newark Airport
Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club applauded the new funding influx, calling it a “step in the right direction.” But he added that there is still a “public health emergency” in Newark, as well as other cities across the state.
“This is not just happening in Newark, we have incidences of lead happening across the state in areas like Paterson, Camden, Morristown, and in 30 towns in Bergen County,” Tittel said. “We need a minimum of $2.3 to $8 billion statewide to fix our lead problem.”