Newark officials will hand out bottled water to residents starting Monday amid concerns over lead levels in water.
Mayor Ras Baraka (D) and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said in a joint statement Sunday that clean drinking water is critically important and called on the federal government to assist their efforts.
“As we carefully evaluate our options and the data available to us, it is important to understand that the city and state will need support and assistance from the federal government if bottled water is to be provided and distributed to impacted residents,” the statement said.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday sent letter to Newark officials warning that filters are insufficient to protect the city's residents from high lead levels.
“We are unable at this time to assure Newark residents that their heath is fully protected when drinking tap water filtered through these devices,” the letter said, in reference to city-issued water filters.
Baraka and Murphy noted in their statement that "experts expect to see a reduction of lead levels by the end of this year after the corrosion control optimizes."
Issues with Newark's water quality have taken the spotlight in the last few days after years of denials from city officials.
The city has already handed out 38,000 free filters meant to protect residents, but handing out bottled water signals an escalation of the response to unsanitary water similar to steps taken in Flint, Mich.
It's still unclear why the filters have been unsuccessful in making the water safely potable.