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New Jersey officials say new testing shows the water filters are working amid lead contamination struggles

Victor J. Blue for CNN

New Jersey officials said Monday the water in Newark is likely safe to drink — if you use the EPA-approved filters issued by the city.

Gov. Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced at a press conference that recently completed preliminary testing results of EPA-approved faucet filters show that the filters are operating effectively.

Gov. Murphy announced that a team of officials from the city, in tandem with the state DEP and the federal EPA, completed testing on PUR filters in over 300 homes, taking more than 1,700 samples.

The preliminary testing results show that approximately 97% of filters currently in place are effective the moment the tap is open, and approximately 99% of filters are effective when water is flushed through the filters for at least five minutes before use. The PUR filters issued by the city reduce tracesof lead to below 10 parts per billion, which is below the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion, the results show.

On the federal level, New Jersey is waiting for President Trump to sign a bill that would reallocate $100 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to be used to deal with the lead service line replacement in New Jersey.

The legislation sponsored by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker would give states that are facing a public health threat due to lead in drinking water, like New Jersey, the flexibility to reallocate funds to address the problem. The bill would allow states to make a one-time transfer of the federal funds in their Clean Water State Revolving Fund to their Drinking Water State Revolving Fund for projects that will remove lead from drinking water.

Gov. Murphy said 6,500 households in Newark have signed up for lead service line replacement, and to date more than 900 service lines have been replaced. The city is replacing the lines at no cost to homeowners in part thanks to funding recently secured by Essex County.

Last month the Essex County Executive announced that the Essex County Improvement Authority will lend $120 million to the city of Newark to replace pipes that are contaminating water with lead.

The new funding will allow the city to fix the 18,000 privately owned lead service lines in the city in 24-30 months, rather than the initially expected 8 to 10 years, authorities have said

The lead service lines connected to dwellings that receive water from Newark in the nearby Hillside and Belleville townships will also be replaced, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo said at the conference.

Gov. Murphy also announced that the state DEP has committed an additional $1 million to fund a Community Assistance Program that will help the city create a volunteer force to install water filters, educate residents on proper filter use, and collect water samples.

In early August, the EPA recommended the city of Newark distribute bottled water to residents because testing showed high lead levels in the water coming through the faucet filters.

Now Mayor Baraka said the city will start dialing back on bottled water distribution and will continue to test the filters.

“We know that an overabundance of the filters are working and we are urging our residents to use them,” Baraka said at the press conference.

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