On Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced that a $120 million bond was going to expedite the replacement of lead service pipes.
The replacement of all of the pipes was previously expected to take about a decade. Now, with the bond approved by the Essex County Improvement Authority, the work could be completed in two to three years. It is expected to get started within a few weeks and, as a bonus, will bring jobs to the area as it rids residents of dangerous, lead-tainted water.
In July, the city bid three projects (Lead Service Line Replacement Program A, B, and C) for the second phase of the Lead Service Line Replacement Program, which detailed the trenchless replacement of up to 500 lead service lines for single-family residences—from the water main in the street to the meter in the house. The work included excavation, removal of the existing service line, installation of one-inch copper service line and curb stop and box, testing and flushing, backfill, soil erosion and sediment control, traffic control, legal disposal of contaminated or hazardous materials, full restoration of pavement, landscaping, sidewalk curbs, and more.
“This new funding will enable us to award contracts simultaneously and more quickly,” Baraka said in a press release. “It will also allow us to finish the work in less time than we originally anticipated.”
At the press conference announcing the bond and new, fast-tracked plans, Baraka said, “We’re going to bring more crews in, obviously, have a project manager over this and being putting more people on the ground simultaneously to do this kind of work throughout the city.”
There will be no charge to impacted homeowners, he said, but the city will need permission from the owners to do the work.
On Wednesday, Newark put out an RFQ for contractors qualified to perform lead hazard control in homes throughout Newark
More than 770 service lines have been replaced since March, and there are 18,000 lines that need to be replaced, according to Baraka. The city gave out more than 30,000 water filters to residents and when those were found to be ineffective, they tried to distribute bottled water—which created long lines at distribution centers and forced people to carry cases of the bottles back to their homes.
With no issues found at the source in Pequannock, the only solution is to replace the old, lead-laden pipes. With this bond, Murphy and Baraka said, the city can get it done in a much more time-sensitive way and bring relief to worried residents sooner than later.