City, state and county officials said the plan to borrow $120 million was expected to cut the time to replace about 18,000 lead lines from 10 years to under 30 months
The announcement came about two weeks after the city began distributing water bottles to residents in about 14,000 homes. Water from two houses tested positive for lead above the federal threshold of 15 parts per billion.
The plan would depend on approval by city and county officials, who are expected to vote on the $120 million bond proposal Tuesday.
Local officials had called on the federal government to help but said Monday they would move forward with their own plan to speed lead pipe replacement.
Rahjiah McBride, of Chester, Pa., right, helping her relatives, Newark residents Elnora and Bowdell Goodwin, center and second right, as Goodwin’s son pitches in carrying bottled water earlier this month. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
“We couldn’t wait for them to react,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said. “We had to do it first.”
Nearly 800 lines have been replaced since March, using money from the state. Homeowners were going to be responsible for paying 10 percent of the replacement cost since the lines weren’t owned by the city, but officials said they won’t have to pay under the plan announced Monday.
Newark passed out nearly 40,000 water filters beginning last year but had to start handing out bottled water two weeks ago after a few homes using the filters had higher-than-expected lead levels.
The lead has been getting into the water from pipes; it was not originating from the source water.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, stressed again Monday that just two homes that were using the filters had tested positive for lead.
The state Department of Environmental Protection said last week that 225 additional homes were being tested, a process that would last a few more weeks. People living in the area would receive bottled water while the testing continued.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, also a Democrat, declined to detail any results from the most recent round of testing.
Elaine Younger, 11, and Tahvion Williams, 14, right, loading water in their family’s van at the Newark Health Department earlier this month. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
The city’s former mayor is currently running for his party's nomination for president. Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat, served as mayor from 2006 to 2013 and has lived in downtown Newark.
Newark also was awaiting a decision from a federal judge in a motion filed by an environmental group to force the city to expand the water distribution program to cover additional residents. A decision is expected soon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.