Recent drinking water quality monitoring conducted by Newark’s Department of Water and Sewer Utilities found elevated levels of lead in some homes and buildings served by the city’s water system.

Officials say the primary sources of lead exposure are lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust or soil. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10 to 20 percent of a person’s potential exposure to lead may come from drinking water.

Acting Director of the Department of Water and Sewer Utilities Kareem Adeem said the city is “working tirelessly” to address the issues.

“Since October 2018, we have distributed over 37,000 filters and spent over 26,000 man hours going door-to-door distributing filters to residents who may be at risk,” said Adeem. “We encourage residents to pick up a free filter and request a free water test. We are also modernizing Newark’s water infrastructure by upgrading the Pequannock corrosion control system and launching a comprehensive Lead Service Line Replacement Program to help residents replace lead service lines on private property.”

Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters the body from drinking water or other sources, especially for pregnant women and children 6 years and younger. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with lowered IQ in children.

Last month, New Jersey U.S. Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker, who also serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced legislation that would help get the lead out of drinking water.

The Water Infrastructure Funding Transfer Bill would give states flexibility when using federal dollars to fund drinking water infrastructure projects by allowing states facing a threat to public health from lead to transfer federal grant dollars from their Clean Water State Revolving Fund to their Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

“Communities across the country don’t have clean drinking water, and those communities are disproportionately low-income and communities of color,” Booker said. “This is an environmental justice issue and our common-sense bill will help communities like Newark finance critical repairs and upgrades to their drinking water systems.”