NEWARK, NJ (CBS New York) – Vice President Kamala Harris is in Newark on Friday to celebrate the efforts that are bringing clean water to thousands of homes.
Harris highlights a successful project that replaced dangerous lead pipes and also explains how other communities can do the same.
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As CBS2’s John Dias reports, this is the vice president’s second official trip to New Jersey. She met people who worked on the project and local leaders like Governor Phil Murphy and Mayor Ras Baraka.
A line of guests formed early outside the Training Recreation Center in Newark to be part of the event, a discussion and celebration with Harris to mark the success and completion of the replacement project for Newark’s main service line.
“This is a historic event for the city of Newark,” said David LaFrance, CEO of the American Water Works Association.
LaFrance came from Denver for the event and said other communities across the country will now look to Newark as a role model.
“The problem isn’t the water itself, it’s the water going through a lead service line. It’s the line down the middle of the street, into your house,” LaFrance said.It was a big challenge here and you accomplished it.
In less than three years, the lead connections of more than 18,000 homes have been replaced.
The undertaking was something that could have taken decades, so it is touted as “remarkable” by the federal government.
A happy resident named Malachi says it’s refreshing to see fast action.
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“It was great to see this plan initially talked about, planned, and then launched,” he said.
In May of last year, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas spoke with the mayor of Newark about the lead problem, and the billion dollars New Jersey received to fix it and other lead problems in statewide under the Presidential Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“You have lost a lot of trust from the locals. Do you think confidence has returned? Cline-Thomas asked.
“That’s what they were concerned about, removing the lead service lines. So that’s what we did,” Baraka said.
According to the White House, up to 10 million American homes and 400,000 schools and daycares currently lack safe drinking water. This includes many in the Garden State.
In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave New Jersey a D+ on its infrastructure report card. Leaders are eager to reverse that rating.
The neighbors are optimistic that this project will change things.
“I’m grateful. I’m glad it happened,” said Newark resident Crystal Diaz.
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Mitch Bernard of the Natural Resources Defense Council released the following statement:
Newark’s historic accomplishment would not have been possible without the dogged and heroic determination of a group of public school teachers and community members, who refused to settle for anything less than the drinking water for the children of Newark. The community’s vibrancy, combined with the skill of the workers and the city’s determination to get the job done quickly, has set a new standard for cities trying to replace toxic lead pipes.
Lead has plagued our country for more than a century, but by removing all of its lead water pipes at no cost to residents, Newark is demonstrating that we are within reach of fixing this curse, improving the health of generations. children.
Our vision is that every family in the country can drink water free from lead contamination. Funding from the new Federal Infrastructure Act, plus we hope that additional resources from the Build Back Better Act and an enhanced lead and copper rule from the EPA can make this dream a reality.