Newark's escalating water crisis has drawn the unwanted attention to Cory Booker's tenure as mayor of the Democratic president and his responsibility for the city's troubled water system long before lead levels in drinking water rose.
The city's problems last reached new heights in which officials began mass distribution of more than 70,000 bottles of water.
Booker, who led Newark from 2006 to 2013 as mayor, left the country before the 2017 first increase in lead in the water supply were found. Wide tests in 2015, two years after his election to the US Senate, showed no problems, and his campaign has rejected all allegations that he blames it.
In a letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency last week, Booker asked for "immediate help" and to help supply the residents of Newark with bottled water.
"Newark's water emergency demands the immediate attention of our federal government," Booker told tweets on Wednesday. "Everyone deserves clean and safe water ̵
Nonetheless, opponents have seized the opportunity to criticize his control of the city's water supply. Former Vice President Joe Biden cited the investigation by the Justice Department under Booker of the Newark Police Department.
"As mayor of Newark, Cory Booker was aware of water quality issues and did not act or was completely incompetent." said Chris Martin, a spokesman for the Republican research group America Rising.
Booker faced a water scandal shortly after his rise to the US Senate, one of the biggest black spots of his term. 19659002] A 2014 US Attorney's report found that public money had been massively misused and that the semi-public authority responsible for the treatment and delivery of water to North Jersey had no meaningful oversight y, Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation.
There were fast charges.
At least nine people were charged, including consultants, contractors, and a Booker ally who ran the agency, Linda Watkins-Brashear. Watkins-Brashear led the water company from 2007 to 2013 and is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for demanding bribes in exchange for contracts that are not working or are overcharged. The Watershed Corporation received $ 10 million annually from the city.
The $ 1 million corruption program eventually killed the agency.
Booker was ex officio chairman of the Watershed Corporation Board of Trustees but never attended a meeting. He was never investigated or charged with a crime and his name was also removed from a lawsuit claiming he had not supervised the agency.
Dan O & # 39; Flaherty, a Columbia University economist who spent a short time as booker's finance director, said Booker left a water department in worse shape than when he became mayor.
"The professional engineering quality was not optimal," said O & # 39; Flaherty, who helped expose the corruption at the watershed was higher when he left when he came in.
The watershed, which operated the Pequannock treatment plant at the center of the current Newark water crisis, was disbanded in 2013 and its responsibilities taken over by the city.
The Pequannock treatment plant was again in the limelight in 2017, when the water treatment system known as corrosion protection could not protect the lead from the city's 18,000 old lead pipes. Leaching into the drinking water supply.
It is not clear when the corrosion protection became ineffective, but a city consultant who examined the water estimated that treatment just before the rise in lead did not work nearly three years ago.
A Review of Consultants by NJ Advance Media The study found that a major reason for the failure of the water treatment was: In or around 2012, when Booker was still mayor, Newark changed the acidity or pH of the water to to avoid a violation of another federal standard . one that limited the levels of potentially carcinogenic chemicals that could form when disinfecting water. Experts say that the altered pH has probably made the water more corrosive – and it's eating more of the pipes and peeling off lead into the supply. In other words, the city's anti-corrosion protection has not just stopped working. Newark changed the chemical composition of the water, which probably affected the effectiveness of lead treatment over time.
The consulting firm CDM Smith stated that a misunderstanding of how anti-corrosion works in the city meant that officials did not know that the pH would have been adjusted had these consequences.
"There has been a fateful series of decisions that have been made to lower the pH," said O & # 39; Flaherty. "We do not know who made it, how they did it, what their reasoning was, and looking back, it seems like you do not have to be a sophisticated chemist to know when the water gets more acidic, it will corrode more. "
Newark schools also reported increased levels of lead in 2016, causing more than 30 schools to turn off their water fountains, but the city officials said the problems with running the school were due to old indoor lead installations rather than through Water pipes have been replaced and water filters have been installed.
Alarming sampling in the past week has shown that water filters in two out of three houses tested did not remove the lead in the expected amount, the filters are nationally certified and used nationwide in Flint, Michigan, among others, shocked federal and state officials change, triggering the immediate distribution of water in bottles.
The filters, of which 39,000 were distributed, were intended as a short-term solution, while city officials implemented a new anti-corrosive treatment will take six months to a year to work. Newark has also launched a $ 75 million program, with the support of the state, to replace the city's 18,000 senior service lines, but this will take eight years. Provide a faster replacement for thousands of liaison lines in older cities. The bill was introduced this spring. Wednesday, August 14, 2019 – Juan Guerra, 83, a resident of Newark, transports complimentary bottled water from the city's health department.
"Every American deserves clean, clean drinking water," said Booker spokeswoman Sabrina Singh. "This is not just a Newark problem or just a Flint problem: more than 3,000 communities across the country have children with twice the blood levels of Flint." This national crisis is disproportionately affecting the poor black and brown communities – and will last so long until we restore our decaying infrastructure. "
Flaherty said one of his long-term concerns was restoring public confidence in the city's water.
" Tell me, the Pequannock Water will be alright, "he said." How do you convince people to drink it? I do not think the city is very credible in that regard, as it has been repeatedly claimed that the water is fine. "
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