Newark Makes History With Sewer Line Replacement

For decades, Newark’s residents suffered from lead water lines that put their children at risk of serious health consequences. But in 2019, Newark made history by beating Flint’s timeline and eliminating lead from its water supply. This success has drawn national attention and is being used as a model for other cities facing similar challenges. We talked with experts involved in the project to learn more about the lessons they’ve learned and how other cities can replicate their success.

The city of Newark has taken a three-pronged approach to replacing lead service lines: a voluntary program, education and outreach, and corrosion control treatment. The City of Newark also worked closely with partners to ensure that the program was successful and had maximum impact.

In the first year of the original program, the City of Newark replaced more than 6,000 lead service lines in the five boroughs. This was far faster than the initial estimates of the eight-year project and is on track to be complete in spring 2022. The city’s outreach efforts focused on educating and engaging residents, as well as providing them with resources to find out whether their pipes are made of lead.

A magnet and a screwdriver are all it takes to test for the presence of lead in water pipes. Those who are concerned can check for the presence of lead using these tools, and then contact their local government or municipality for more information.

Unlike other municipal water infrastructure projects, such as sewer line replacement, the lead service lines in homes are owned by individual homeowners, who are responsible for their maintenance and repair. This is why it’s important to schedule routine inspections of the water lines that connect your home’s plumbing system to your sewer line. During these visits, a professional can identify signs of damage, and you can take the necessary steps to address them before they turn into a more serious issue.

When it comes to removing lead from the water supply, the City of Newark understood that it couldn’t wait for traditional anti-corrosion remedies to take effect. That’s because those treatments just kicked the can down the road and risked public health in the meantime.

Instead, the City of Newark developed an initial lead service plumber Newark OH line (LSL) replacement program that aimed to remove all LSLs within 10 years. This was ambitious, but the City knew that it could succeed if it could reach homeowner consent and get to work.

The city did this with extensive community outreach, including door-to-door canvassing. With a large portion of the city’s LSLs being in rental properties, this was no small task. The City also passed an ordinance allowing the City to enter a property to replace a LSL without owner consent, and worked with partners like 120Water to distribute free testing kits to residents.

This effort exemplifies what it means to be an innovative city and how collaboration and partnership can make a huge difference in the lives of our citizens. We know that many other communities are struggling with their own challenges, but the success of this program shows that it is possible to turn around a water crisis and protect our most vulnerable populations.