Cleaning up Newark Water: A reconstruction project to replace lead water pipes.

by N. Thomas

Site Description:

Three years after Newark noticed its tap/drinking water showed unsafe levels of lead in its water they have decided to uproot about 23,000 lead pipes in the city and replace them with new pipes. Newark has violated the maximum contaminant level for many contaminants, especially lead which exceeded the maximum level by four times it’s standard at one point! The movement to begin changing the pipes began in August 2019 and as of now they have replaced about 20,000 of 23,000 pipes in Newark. Why was the water contamination allowed to rise to such levels? What did the government fail to do, and what did the people do to fight it? From this tragedy we should learn about how to fight for our right to safe drinking water.

Author Biography:

An electrical engineering student in his senior year who has always had an interest in water purity and filtration, so the reconstruction effort to purify Newark water is an issue that interested me.

Final Report:

Primary Sources:

1. Newark’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program, Department of Water and Sewer Utilities,

Title: Newark’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program

Location: Online Source

Description: this is the official website for Newark’s service line replacement program, it has much information about the program such as why they are doing it, what steps they have taken, and the official guidelines about service line replacement. One significant aspect of this source and what makes it a primary source is that it’s also for newark residents to use to monitor progress, check their streets for lead service lines, submit forms if they need help with lead service lines, and help distribute water testing kits and filters for those who need them. This website is Newark’s tool to survive the lead service lines that plagued newark water.

2. Baker, Henry. “” Why New Jersey Is Ripping Up It’s Streets | VR 180, Bloomberg Quicktake, 21 Oct. 2020.

Location: Online Source (Youtube)

Description: this is a vr youtube documentary that lets me take a look at service workers actually replacing some lead service pipes in newark homes first hand in virtual reality, I can take a look around as they pull lead service pipes out and replace them with copper pipes.they also give a good description of the history of Newark’s water and pipes and steps they’ve taken to solve their water problem.

3. “Open Letter to President Donald Trump From Mayor Ras J. Baraka.”, City of Newark, 14 Jan. 2019,

Location: Online Source

Description: This is a straightforward call to action for Donald Trump criticizing his border wall and recommending those funds be reallocated to the nation’s water infrastructure (specifically Newark and New Jersey). This is a strong letter from the Mayor of Newark that conveys the feelings of those in need of clean water in Newark.

4. “” Mayor Baraka Pens Open Letter to Trump -Fox5NY, City of Newark NJ, 18 Jan. 2019.

Location: Online Source (Youtube)

Description: This is a Fox News Story that covers the letter that Mayor Baraka sent to Donald Trump. It not only gives a good description of what the letter meant and how it was recieved, but also most importantly goes on to describe in full detail the plan that Mayor Baraka proposes to fix Newark’s water infrastructure. Replacing over 18,000 lead service pipes all over Newark.

5. Panico, Rebecca. “Newark’s Lead Line Replacement Program Includes Properties City Said Are ‘Unaffected’ by Water Crisis.” TAPinto, 29 Mar. 2019,

Location: Online Source

This is a government website where an official reporter first handedly took pictures and did research of her own during the lead pipe replacement, and gives a good method to telling a lead service pipe from others and also giving a fantastic interactive map that lets you see where exactly all the service lines have been replaced.

Primary Source Analysis:

The primary source I will be analysing in detail is the official website for the newark lead service line program.

This website has many different pages you can go through so that anyone, Newark citizen or not, can become knowledgeable on the program and can see the progress of it and what it’s doing for the community. Some of the pages and features this website includes are a live counter of the amount of lead service lines replaced, a tool to see which homes have lead service lines, and plenty of resourceful links that you can click on to keep updated with their social media or to gain knowledge on the program. This website is made for Newark residents and non residents to teach people more about lead service lines and to push to replace the ones that they have because their lives and the lives of children depend on clean safe water.

One way you can tell the website really means to push for non lead pipes is the big “take action” button after the main introduction paragraph, that leads to a section of links that are mainly geared towards Newark residents to check their streets for lead service lines, send a message to the people running the program, send a request for water filters, and more helpful tools.  Another way you can tell the website wants to teach people is that they include a link to their social media which they constantly keep updated with new information on how the program is going and what else Newark is doing to clean up it’s water. The third piece of evidence that this website wants to push for non lead service lines is that there is a readily available option to register for the program, you can sign up to have your lead service line replaced if you have one.

      Secondary Sources:

        1. Anselm, Bryan. “Newark Drinking Water Crisis.” NRDC, 10 Feb. 2021,

        This is an official article From the Natural Resource Defense Council describing in general the water issue that Newark faces and also includes an incredibly detailed timeline of events related to the Newark water crisis.

        This source includes one of the most important pieces of my report, which is how specific Newark Agencies and officials failed at their task to protect Newark citizens and Newark tap water. This source gives the day and month and even outside sources for each event and will provide me with much data to write my report on.

        2. “Department of Health.” Lead Service Line Replacement Program (LSLRP),

        This is a government website that describes the Lead Service Line Replacement Program (LSLRP) in it’s entirety.

        This website provides an overview of the what LSLRP does for the country, why it is necessary to replace lead service lines, and intricate details regarding lead pipe replacement that will be useful for the report since the report is on replacing lead service lines in Newark.

        3. Group, Environmental Working. “EWG’s Tap Water Database: What’s in Your Drinking Water?” EWG Tap Water Database,

        This is a website from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that provides water pollution data.

        This source provides everything there is to know about the amount of each specific contamination that appeared in Newark drinking water from 2012-2017. From this I’ll be able to learn just how polluted the water really was to incite Newark to borrow 120 million dollars to replace its lead pipes. This website also provides information on how to ensure you have safe drinking water.

        Image Analysis:

        From 2018 to late 2019 Newark experienced the tragedy of lead contamination in their public water supply due to lead service lines that delivered water to homes and buildings in Newark. Thousands of Newark residents were exposed to contaminants that were allowed to creep up slowly into their water supply by government agencies that refused to act on this issue on time. In this photo, you can see the government effort to protect it’s citizens from this crisis. There is also a news van parked on the street, and a building painted with culturally relevant art. From this photo you can see Newark Government attempting to rectify their mistakes from ignoring the growing water contamination by delivering water bottles to the public.

        This picture was taken by Spencer Platt for Getty Images as he documented the relief effort for the water contamination crisis in Newark. Spencer Platt is a famous freelance photo journalist who won the 2006 best press photo of the year award for one of his photo’s documenting the Lebanon War. It was produced to show Americans a slice of the issue that is happening in Newark and what the government is doing to try to fix it.

        Data Analysis:

        Oral Interviews:

        Video Story: