After denying a lead problem in the city’s water system for over a year and a half, officials in Newark, New Jersey are now starting an urgent giveaway of over 40,000 water filters.

According to The New York Times, there’s been “ample evidence that the city was facing a public health crisis that had echoes of the one in Flint, Michigan,” but the city insisted “NEWARK’S WATER IS ABSOLUTELY SAFE TO DRINK” on their website. According to state data, elevated levels of lead have been reported in Newark’s tap water for three consecutive six-month periods since 2017.

Well, Newark is now admitting that there may be a growing public health crisis over its tap water after the results of a new study were released this month. “Officials were finally compelled to act after an engineering study commissioned by the city found that measures to prevent lead from leaching into drinking water were failing at one of Newark’s two treatment plants,” the New York Times reports. “State officials are warning that children under 6 in homes with lead pipes served by the plant should not drink unfiltered tap water.”

In response, there is currently a water filter giveaway across the city, which aims to target about 285,000 people. Mayor Ras Baraka says the real problem is actually the infrastructure, not the water.

“When you make a statement that the drinking water is not safe, it is yelling fire in a crowded room,” he said during a recent news conference. “In fact, Newark has some of the best drinking water. The problem is that our infrastructure is not safe.”

Newark, like Flint, has a large black community and the water issue has prompted at lest one lawsuit. Erik Olson, an official at the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a suit against Newark this summer, accusing the city of violating federal safe drinking water laws. “The parallels to Flint are fairly clear: The city was denying a problem even though its own data was showing problems,” he said. “Newark is not as extreme as Flint but still a serious problem.”

Roommates, we will keep you posted as more details on the situation are released.

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