The City of Newark is winding down distribution of bottled water to residents, except for pregnant women and families with children under the age of six.

According to city officials, preliminary testing results performed by the city, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed that 97-99% of filters tested removed lead below the federal action level.

“Our message is simple: the filters work, use the filters,” Mayor Baraka said. “We did this out of an overabundance of caution when two of three filters we tested did not bring lead levels down to the desired parts per billion. The City of Newark along with the NJDEP and the U.S. EPA conducted a much more comprehensive test, taking 1,700 samples from 300 homes, based on protocols established by the NJDEP and U.S. EPA.”

Baraka added that the results showed that properly installed PUR filters, issued by the city, are 99 percent effective when used in combination with flushing for at least five minutes before turning on the filter.

Starting this Tuesday, bottled water distribution ended at recreation centers. Only PUR water filters and replacement cartridges will be available at the following three recreation centers: St. Peter’s Recreation Center (378 Lyons Ave.), Boylan Street Recreation Center (916 S. Orange Ave.) and Vince Lombardi Center of Hope (201 Bloomfield Ave.).

Pregnant women and families with children under six years of age can pick up two cases of bottled water every two weeks Monday through Friday at the Newark Health Department WIC Program and the Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center.

With a $120 million bond backed by Essex County, the city will replace the lines with no cost to residents. When the job is completed, Newark will be the first city in the Northeast and only the third in the country to replace all lead service lines.

Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Murphy and Congressman Josh Gottheimer announced several initiatives to strengthen the state’s response to lead testing and the remediation of elevated lead levels in drinking water in New Jersey schools.

The administration will implement a three-pronged approach to enhance key lead testing and remediation regulations and policies. The New Jersey Department of Education will strengthen its Safe Drinking Water regulations to require schools to test for lead every three years, rather than every six years, in order to ensure timely detection of elevated lead levels. A $100 million voter-approved bond will be used to fund school water infrastructure improvement projects through the Securing Our Children Future Bond Act.