NJ officials: We're working with EPA to test lead in water

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks to reporters after touring the Newark Health Department in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. Residents began picking up bottled water on Monday, days after elevated lead levels were found in homes where city-issued filters had been distributed months ago as part of an ongoing effort to combat contamination. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Elaine Younger, 11, and Tahvion Williams, 14, right, load water in their family's van at the Newark Health Department in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. Residents began picking up bottled water on Monday, days after elevated lead levels were found in homes where city-issued filters had been distributed months ago as part of an ongoing effort to combat contamination. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Rahjiah McBride, of Chester, Pa., center, helps her relatives who are Newark residents pick up cases of water from the Boylan Street Recreation Center, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, in Newark, N.J., after New Jersey's governor and Newark's mayor vowed to provide bottled water to city residents with lead service lines. Environmental Protection Agency tests indicated that filters distributed earlier might not be protecting residents against elevated lead levels in some areas. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Volunteer Matthew Tiggs, left, helps Newark resident Mack Mayton load cases of bottled water into the trunk of his car, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, in Newark, N.J., after Mayotn picked it up at the Boylan Street Recreation Center. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that a few city locations had tested with elevated lead levels in drinking water in spite of filters that had been distributed earlier. The EPA recommended that residents use bottled water for drinking and cooking "out of an abundance of caution." (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Elnora Goodwin, left, and Bowdell Goodwin, both Newark residents, leave the Boylan Street Recration Center with cases of bottled water, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, in Newark, N.J., after recent tests showed that drinking water in a few locations was still testing high for lead despite filters that had been distributed earlier. The Environmental Protection Agency said that "out of an abundance of caution" residents should use bottled water for drinking and cooking. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Signs that indicate where to pick up water filters are displayed in the Newark Health Department in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. Newark has given out more than 30,000 filters since last year after the city found high lead levels due to lead service lines to some homes. Officials are doing more testing to determine if the filters are working correctly. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Signs about lead poisoning are posted in the Newark Health Department in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. Newark has given out more than 30,000 filters since last year after the city found high lead levels due to lead service lines to some homes. Officials are doing more testing to determine if the filters are working correctly. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
Rahjiah McBride, of Chester, Pa., right, helps her relatives, Newark residents Elnora and Bowdell Goodwin, center and second right, as Goodwin's son pitches in carrying bottled water from the Boylan Street Recreation Center, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, in Newark, N.J. New Jersey's governor and Newark's mayor vowed to provide bottled water to city residents with lead service lines after Environmental Protection Agency tests indicated that filters distributed earlier might not be protecting residents of some areas against elevated lead levels. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
People leave the Boylan Street Recreation Center with cases of bottled water, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, in Newark, N.J., after recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tests showed elevated levels of lead in the drinking water in some areas of Newark, despite filters that had been distributed earlier. The EPA said that "out of an abundance of caution" residents should use bottled water for drinking and cooking. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Signs about lead poisoning are posted in a lab in the Newark Health Department in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. Newark has given out more than 30,000 filters since last year after the city found high lead levels due to lead service lines to some homes. Officials are doing more testing to determine if the filters are working correctly. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A line forms in front of the Bolan Street Recreation center as Newark residents picked up cases of bottled water, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, in Newark, N.J., after U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that recent tests showed elevated lead levels in drinking water in a few locations despite filters that had been distributed earlier. The EPA warned that "out of an abundance of caution" residents should use bottled water for drinking and cooking. People exiting the facility said they had waited two to three hours for the water. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
City residents line up at the Boylan Street Recreation Center with cases of bottled water, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, in Newark, N.J., after recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tests showed elevated levels of lead in the drinking water in some areas of Newark, despite filters that had been distributed earlier. The EPA said that "out of an abundance of caution" residents should use bottled water for drinking and cooking. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Elaine Younger, 11, loads water in her family's van at the Newark Health Department in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. Residents began picking up bottled water on Monday, days after elevated lead levels were found in homes where city-issued filters had been distributed months ago as part of an ongoing effort to combat contamination. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey authorities said Wednesday they're working with federal officials to determine how widespread lead in Newark's drinking water might be, as the city handed out bottled water to residents for the third day in a row.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka spoke at a news conference after touring a bottled water distribution center.

The event came just days after word that two homes in New Jersey's biggest city tested positive for lead in the water despite the use of filters, and the mayor and governor vowed to hand out bottled water.

McCabe said she is meeting in Washington Thursday with federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler about the issue, and she added that officials are trying to get a handle on how widespread the issue is. She emphasized that authorities have limited results so far.

Newark dealt with elevated lead levels in its service lines for years and distributed nearly 40,000 filters since last year because some homes with lead service lines tested positive for the substance.

The latest issue came about when three homes' filters were checked recently and two tested positive for lead.

Officials say no level of lead is safe. But federal rules set a level of 15 parts per billion as a tripwire. In Newark's case, authorities said the lead is leaching in from the pipes and is not originating from the source water, which comes from a water treatment plant about 18 miles (29 kilometers) northwest of the city.

It's unclear how high the lead levels in the two homes that tested positive were. McCabe and Murphy stressed Wednesday that the levels showed a drop but weren't low enough to meet the federal threshold. Baraka said the city doesn't yet have enough information to know whether the filters the city distributed are working. McCabe noted that the same filters have been used in Flint, Michigan, where lead leached into the water supply in 2014 and 2015.

Newark operates a lead information website that allows residents to look up whether their homes have lead service lines.

Murphy said the state has about 70,000 cases of water through its emergency management agency available. He added that private corporations and faith-based groups are also volunteering water to give to residents.

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