Is a New Water Contamination Crisis Emerging in Newark?

August 19, 2020 2 min read

Is a New Water Contamination Crisis Emerging in Newark?

          Six years ago, Newark, New Jersey faced a lead crisis that no one was ready for. High levels of lead were reported in water supplies starting in 2015, along with other heavy metal contaminants. The situation looked a lot like the lead crisis happening in Flint, Michigan and other cities at the same time. In March 2016, the Newark Public School system shut down drinking water fountains at thirty schools. In 2018, troubles continued. The National Resources Defense Council sued the Newark government, claiming it had violated the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency stepped in to investigate.

So how is Newark faring now, almost six years after the crisis began?

            It may depend on who you ask. The Newark city government released a January 2020 report touting $160 million in infrastructure development to help remedy the lead crisis once and for all. The city claimed that it had followed through on its promise to "get the lead out." The Newark Department of Public Safety suggested that claims that the city had not made significant improvements were simply "media hysteria."

            However, many in the Newark community continue to have concerns about the quality of their tap water. Some residences are still being served tap water with high lead levels. Families across the city still rely on costly and wasteful bottled water because they don't trust the quality of water that comes out of the tap. And although there have been infrastructural improvements, some residents are still waiting on their lead-leaching service lines to be replaced.

            But even if do assume the lead crisis is being met head-on, and is on its way to a resolution, a new crisis may be just emerging around dangerously high trihalomethane levels.

           Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) are volatile organic compounds that can cause birth defects and cancer. TTHMs are formed when chlorine interacts with other compounds in tap water. It's not an uncommon contaminant in many areas of the United States. But Newark, which has been focusing on infrastructure improvements to address lead contamination, has not had TTHMs on its radar. TTHM levels had been creeping up in Newark for the last six years, from 11.1 ppb in 2015 to 40.1 ppb in 2017, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). However, it wasn't until February that the city didn't meet compliance for the contaminant. This came as a concern to many residents who rely on safe tap water. For a community already reeling from a six-year (and ongoing) lead crisis, many fear that the recent TTHMs issue signals another crisis to come.

            Although Newark may soon find itself in the spotlight when it comes to TTHMs, it is far from the only city in the United States that is dealing with this contaminant. According to the EWG, many cities around the country have had violations for TTHM contamination, and many people drink this contaminant every day without even knowing it. Fortunately, the Seychelle filter removes TTHMs, as well as lead. With a Seychelle filter, you don't have to wait for the crisis to start. You'll always be protected from the tap water contaminants that matter most, from TTHMs to heavy metals.