Residents Irritated After City Gives Them Expired Bottled Water to Cope With Lead Problem

By Colin Fredericson

Newark residents are questioning if the expired bottles of water handed out by the local government are safer than the lead-laden tap water it was meant to replace.

The past-use-by-date bottles of water were handed out at Boylan Street Recreation Center in Newark. Community members are concerned that the chemicals from the plastic bottles have had time to leach into the water, PIX11 reported.

“It is not alright. When water sits, we don’t know how long it was sitting before it expired. OK, so let’s say it’s been sitting for three years. So that means for three years, we don’t know if it was hot, cold. We don’t know where this water was stored at,” said Community activist Donna Jackson, via PIX11.

The bottles came with a letter from the New Jersey State Department of Health and the City of Newark that claims the water is safe to drink, PIX11 reported. The water comes from a state government stockpile, procured by the state from a private vendor, WABC reported.

State officials claim that expiration dates are not needed on bottled water, but are placed there for the convenience of manufacturer stock rotation, according to PIX11.

The city started distributing bottled water to residents on August 12. The bottled water is a solution to a previous gaffe meant to deal with lead in Newark’s tap water, PIX11 reported.

The city found that water coming out of lead filters in some homes still contained lead. The lead filters were meant to be a solution to lead found in tap water, PIX11 reported. The city handed out filters to 19,000 homes, WABC reported.

Before the lead filters were handed out, Newark residents were told for many years that their water was safe to drink.

“I’m probably full of lead no doubt, I’ve been here mostly all my life,” a local resident told PIX11. “This isn’t something that just happened. Corrosion in the pipes, that don’t just happen in a couple of years.”

Residents Want Mayor Ras Baraka Out

People are calling for Newark mayor Ras Baraka to resign as the city and state struggle to find a solution that pleases residents. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy visited the city on August 14 in hopes of reassuring residents.

“This is a slap in the face to the residents of the city of Newark,” said Jackson, via WABC. “As you can see, everybody is standing in line. We are now in panic mode in this city because the feds had to come in to tell us to stop drinking the water.”

The PUR water filters that the city handed out still allowed four times the minimum allowable amount of lead to get into residents’ water.

A test found damning results in two out of the three homes tested, WABC reported. Murphy said the government would have to do more testing on a wider sample of households.

Jackson compared this situation to the water crisis that rocked Flint, Michigan.

“Mayor Baraka is worse than the officials in Flint because he knew this.”

Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is now a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, also weighed in.

“Newark’s water emergency demands our federal government’s immediate attention. Everyone deserves clean, safe water—it’s shameful that our national crisis of lead-contaminated water disproportionately hits poor black and brown communities like my own,” Booker posted on Twitter.