The Right to Safe Water

Natural Resources Defense Council - 10623

In the last few years, the levels of lead in Newark’s drinking water have been some of the highest recently recorded by a large water system in the United States. Over three six-month monitoring periods, Newark’s drinking water samples exceeded the federal action level for lead, set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At one Newark home, lead levels reached more than 26 times the action level. The cause of these alarming results? Officials continually violated the Safe Drinking Water Act by failing to treat Newark’s water to prevent lead from flaking off from pipes into residents’ taps. Experts agree that there is no safe level of lead. Pregnant women and children are most vulnerable: Even low lead levels are associated with serious, irreversible damage to developing brains and nervous systems. Lead exposure is also linked to fertility issues, cardiovascular and kidney problems, cognitive dysfunction, and elevated blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults. NRDC, alongside the Newark Education Workers (NEW) Caucus, went to court demanding access to safe drinking water for the residents of Newark. “Access to safe water should be a basic right for everyone,” says Al Moussab, a Newark resident and the president of the NEW Caucus. “However, for many working-class people, it’s not. By joining this lawsuit, we hope to hold the city and state governments accountable for providing safe drinking water to every home and school in Newark.” In Fall 2018, our litigation prompted Newark to offer water filters to some residents, but many more are in need. We continue to ask for bottled water delivery as alternative relief on the scope necessary to truly limit residents’ lead exposure. Recently, the City of Newark announced levels of lead in its drinking water had declined below the EPA’s action level, for the first six months of 2020. It is promising that lead levels are coming down, and that many lead service lines have been replaced, but the job is not finished yet. There are no safe levels of lead in drinking water.

Charity Name
Natural Resources Defense Council
Photo Caption
A drinking fountain at the Essex County Riverfront Park in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey
Photo Credit
Bryan Anselm for NRDC; Natural Resources Defense Council