Newark will continue its large-scale bottled water distribution through the weekend as officials scramble to understand why two filters meant to eliminate lead in the water failed to work.
No one knows how much longer residents in about 14,000 households will have to rely on bottled water.
We just started giving out water to make sure people were OK -- precautionary measures -- until we find out whats going on, Mayor Ras Baraka said in a video message he posted on Thursday.
Only residents who live in the Pequannock water treatment area and have a lead service line are eligible for bottled water. Kareem Adeem, the acting director of Newarks water and sewer department, however, said pregnant and nursing women who live in the Wanaque treatment plant can also get water if they wait in line.
The city is currently waiting to hear whether a federal judge will mandate bottled water distribution be expanded to pregnant women and families with children six years of age and under who live in the Wanaque water treatment area, as part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Newark also announced a partnership with the United Way of Essex and West Hudson and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey to create an online water fund, where people can donate money to purchase bottled water.
We are committed to providing access to safe drinking water to residents, and we are grateful for the support of innovative community partners as we work tirelessly to address this situation for the people of this great city," Baraka said in a statement.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said their scientists together with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and city developed a new sampling plan to figure out why exactly filters at two of three tested homes werent removing enough lead. Additional testing has already taken place but new sampling according to the plan began Friday, the EPA said.
Technicians are currently in the field conducting testing based on a DEP and EPA-approved protocol and an analysis will be provided once it is available," Alexandra Altman, a spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement Friday.
Federal and state leaders, including U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, have repeatedly called on the EPA to step up and provide funding for the bottled water program. After all, the EPA requested the city begin distributing water in a letter last Friday.
The EPA has not yet directly responded to those requests but said it would help the city and state evaluate potential solutions.
Free water pick up will resume from 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Sunday at the same four locations for this weekend.
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