U.S. Sen. Cory Booker – the former mayor of Newark and a 2020 presidential candidate – is fundamentally responsible for dangerous levels of lead in drinking water that residents are being urged to avoid.
New tests on the water in Newark caused the US Environmental Protection Agency to advise residents in homes with old lead pipes use bottled water until there is a reliable solution.
EPA officials called on the city and state to immediately develop a plan to provide alternative sources of water.
The EPA said water filters the city distributed to 19,000 homes last fall to protect residents from elevated levels of lead may not be working as intended. and recently decided to conduct tests on the effectiveness of the filters.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has downplayed comparisons to Flint, Michigan, claiming that the underlying issues with its water infrastructure are completely different.
Still, Baraka is telling people with lead service lines to run their water for five minutes for maximum protection although he stressed that the test covered a very small sample with just three homes.
Anyone concerned about lead poisoning in their children can get their blood test. Talk to your health care provider or the Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness at 973-733-5323.
“The danger’s there, you know, whether or not (my kids) are exposed to the danger, the danger is there, in fact, and it’s accessible,” Newark resident Charles Cooper told Eyewitness News in October.
The realities of running New Jersey’s largest city often collided with Booker’s growing national appeal during his seven-year reign as Newark mayor.
A scathing February 2014 state comptroller report found rampant abuse of public funds at the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation (NWCDC), the agency tasked with treating and delivering water to North Jersey.
Booker, who served as ex-officio chairman of the Watershed’s Board of Trustees, never attended a meeting of the agency, which operated free of meaningful oversight despite $10 million in annual service contracts from the city to manage water assets.
Indictments soon followed and the widening scandal swept up consultants, contractors and the head of the agency, Linda Watkins-Brashear, a Booker ally.
Watkins-Brashear, who ran the water utility from 2007 to 2013, admitted to soliciting bribes in exchange for no-work or over-inflated contracts and was sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison.
At least nine individuals have been indicted or sentenced in the $1 million corruption scheme that eventually toppled the agency.
Booker, who served as an ex-officio chairman of the Watershed’s Board of Trustees but never attended a meeting, was not charged in the scandal and his name was dropped from a lawsuit alleging he failed to oversee the agency.
“This is a guy who came in and preached transparency and accountability. On both of these fronts in the watershed issue, he failed and he failed dismally,” said Guy Sterling, a member of the Newark Water Watch group that helped expose corruption at the agency, and a former Star-Ledger reporter. “If not the most glaring black mark on his records, it’s certainly one of them.”
The watershed corporation declared bankruptcy in 2013 and the city’s department of water and sewer assumed its duties.
Now, the city is dealing with a different type of crisis. Since 2017, there have been lead levels in the drinking water due to old lead pipes and a problems at one of the city’s water treatment plants.
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