Newark Mayor to Trump: Forget the wall, fix the water system

By Kimi Wei [current_date]

Newark, NJ Mayor Ras J. Baraka sent an open letter to President Donald J. Trump yesterday calling on the federal government to fix the nation’s failing water infrastructure rather than fund the border wall. The decaying infrastructure of our drinking water system in cities and small towns is affecting the health of millions of Americans every single day – from Newark, New Jersey, across America’s heartland, to Oakland, California.

“I want to bring your attention to a true emergency that puts millions of our citizens at risk: the decaying infrastructure of our water systems which has generated a crisis in Newark, the State of New Jersey and across America,” wrote Mayor Baraka. “This crisis mainly affects older black and brown cities with limited resources and serious health issues that are systemically overlooked by every level of government. In prioritizing environmental justice, saving children and their families within these cities is a must… the only real solution is to save this and future generations of children is to replace lead service lines.”

Each day, children in black and brown communities are being exposed to dangerously high lead levels from deteriorating outdated lead service pipes, entering homes and children’s blood. No level of lead in blood is safe. Elevated blood lead levels harm young children’s developing brains, which can lead to learning disabilities and behavioral problems. The lead service line issue crisis affects not only Newark, but over 20 New Jersey communities and thousands of urban and rural communities across the country. The cost of fixing the nation’s failing water infrastructure falls disproportionately on low-income communities that lack adequate funding resources to cover the astronomical cost of replacing lead service pipes.

“It will cost an estimated $70 million to replace the lead service lines in Newark, hundreds of millions more to replace them in New Jersey, and an estimated $35 billion to replace all of the lead service lines in America. Achieving this is possible only with financial help from the federal government,” continued Mayor Baraka.

The City of Newark has developed a unique public-private partnership with the State of New Jersey to help finance the replacement of lead service lines impacting thousands of homes across the city. The city is also implementing a new corrosion control system, conducting free water testing and distributing water filters to residents. According to Mayor Baraka, the only commonsense, permanent solution to protect public health is to replace all lead service lines, which carries a cost few municipalities can match alone.

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