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US city to replace lead pipes that sparked water crisis

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US officials announced a US$120 million plan to replace old pipes blamed for high lead levels in a major city, as they moved to defuse a growing water crisis Monday.

[NEW YORK] US officials announced a US$120 million plan to replace old pipes blamed for high lead levels in a major city, as they moved to defuse a growing water crisis Monday.

Thousands of residents in the predominantly black and Hispanic city of Newark, New Jersey, have been drinking only bottled water this month after a environment agency found lead levels were not safe.

The crisis highlighted creaking infrastructure in a urban centre and drew comparisons with a water crisis in the former industrial city of Flint, Michigan, which became a symbol of social injustice in America.

Mayor Ras Baraka told a press conference that the city had secured a loan to replace approximately 18,000 pipes over the next 24 to 30 months.

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"We are anticipating that no one will have to pay anything to get their lead service lines replaced," he said.

Newark's 280,000 residents were told earlier this month to just drink bottled water after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found filters were not extracting lead properly.

Local politicians struggled to quickly resolve the crisis - the first warning signs of which came in 2017 - and even called on President Donald Trump to step in.

Newark, known for its international airport and high crime rates, has distributed almost 40,000 water filters to residents recently.

Recent tests conducted in three households found that in two of them the level of lead was above the rate deemed acceptable by the EPA, however.

Health authorities offered free filter tests to residents concerned that their water may be tainted.

Flint's drinking water was contaminated three years ago when in a cost-saving drive, officials switched to a more corrosive water source that had not been properly treated.

The contamination, initially denied by state and local officials, poisoned thousands of children and caused the deaths of 12 people from Legionnaire's disease, according to authorities.

AFP