The Truth About New Jersey's Drinking Water

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is not properly reviewing and collecting information from water utilities to ensure the Federal Lead/Copper rule is being followed.

In East Brunswick the proper homes are not being sampled and the proper notification has not been provided to residents since 2007.

Newark Data

129 Samples taken
22% of homes are above the federal action level of 15 parts per billion (15ppb)
47% of homes are above 5ppb. The American Pediatric Association recommends an exposure of no more than 1ppb

This is potentially worse than
the Flint, Michigan crisis

Briefing on the dangers of lead levels in New Jersey drinking water

Data posted June 30 on the NJ Water Watch website run by Department of Environmental Protection shows there is an urgent toxic water problem due to lead in Newark’s drinking water.

June 30 is also the date all NJ municipalities are required to post their water sample data (although they are not all required to do so in the same years.).

The state of NJ should have declared a public health emergency immediately. We demand the government of NJ must: 

1. Immediately distribute filters that are certified by NSF/ANSI standards for the reduction of lead (an independent organization that tests water filters to confirm they function properly to remove 99% of lead).

2. Educate all residents regarding the situation and the use and care for filters.
 
3. During the interim, distribute bottled water for a more immediate solution.

In Newark, of 129 residential water taps sampled, 61 samples were above 5 parts per billion (ppb), equivalent to 47%.

Twenty-nine of these samples showed more than 15ppb, the federal action level on lead.

The other 53% of the 129 taps sampled were reported as less than 5ppb, but the exact numbers were not released.

The data released does not indicate the specific geographic locations within Newark, but indicates that at least 47% of the 296,000 inhabitants of this city are consuming dangerous levels of lead when they drink from their tap.

The American Pediatrics Association recommends no more than 1ppb exposure to lead in drinking water.  

In Jersey City, out of 105 samples, 10 sights were to contain determined lead levels above 15ppb, indicating a crisis situation for approximately 20,000 people.

The small Middlesex County town of Milltown demonstrates similar or possibly worse water than Newark.  This indicates the crisis does not only affect urban centers, but rather the entire state of New Jersey.  This is especially true due to the small size of sampling required, and an independent investigation by environmentalist scientist and candidate for Assembly in District 18, Sean Stratton, indicates water utilities do not always comply with regulations such as periodic sampling from the same taps over time.

While it is true that running tap water a few minutes prior to drinking cleans out lead sediment, it does not guarantee lead is removed to an acceptable level for human consumption without health risk.

Lead in water lines, residential plumbing and as solder of copper lines was banned in NJ as recently as 1987.  Homes and water municipal systems not renovated since that time are likely to contain lead which corrodes from physical and chemical reactions.

Lead testing is done at the minimum level of samples required by law.  These standards are insufficient to actually determine the existence of toxic water due to lead in homes not sampled.  Nor does lead testing account for other harmful pollutants.  Water with high levels of lead is odorless and invisible.  Neither smelling or visually inspecting a glass of water can determine if lead is present.  Lead cannot enter the body through the skin.

The EPA has set the maximum contaminant level goal for lead in drinking water at zero because lead is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels. Lead is persistent, and it can bioaccumulate in the body over time.

On the worst effects of lead in water

Young children, infants, and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to lead because the physical and behavioral effects of lead occur at lower exposure levels in children than in adults. A dose of lead that would have little effect on an adult can have a significant effect on a child. In children, low levels of exposure have been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, and impaired formation and function of blood cells.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that public health actions be initiated when the level of lead in a child’s blood is 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or more.

It is important to recognize all the ways a child can be exposed to lead. Children are exposed to lead in paint, dust, soil, air, and food, as well as drinking water. If the level of lead in a child's blood is at or above the CDC action level of 5 micrograms per deciliter, it may be due to lead exposures from a combination of sources. EPA estimates that drinking water can make up 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 percent to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water.

Children

Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:
Behavior and learning problems
Lower IQ and hyperactivity
Slowed growth
Hearing problems
Anemia
In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.

Pregnant Women

Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium and is used to help form the bones of the fetus. This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough dietary calcium. Lead can also cross the placental barrier exposing the fetus to lead. This can result in serious effects to the mother and her developing fetus, including:
Reduced growth of the fetus
Premature birth

Adults

Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults exposed to lead can suffer from:
Cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure and incidence of hypertension
Decreased kidney function
Reproductive problems (in both men and women)