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Newark Water Filters Are Working, Tests Suggest

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Newark Water Filters Are Working, Tests Suggest
New Jersey Gov. Murphy said 6,500 households in Newark have signed up for lead service line replacement, and so far more than 900 service lines have been replaced. Edwin J. Torres / Governor's Office

Newark water is safe to drink, if you use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved filters issued by the city, according to new test data that city and state officials announced Monday.



New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that more than 1,700 samples were taken from 300 homes. The tests showed that the filters were tested and 97 percent of the filters worked effectively once the tap was turned on. That number rose to 99 percent when the tap was allowed to run for five minutes before a sample was collected, as the AP reported.

"These results are a welcome jolt of positive news that allows us collectively to charge ahead in implementing our short-term, midterm and long-term solutions," Murphy said at a news conference on Monday, as The New York Times reported.

Newark officials had handed out more than 38,000 lead filters to address the issue, but two filters tested last month showed levels of lead as high as 57.9 parts per billion — nearly four times the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion, as the New York Post reported. The failed test spurred the city and religious groups to distribute bottled water to nearly 14,000 homes.

The PUR filters issued by the city reduce traces of lead to less than 10 parts per billion, the test showed, according to CNN. However, scientists say there is no safe level of lead in water. High blood lead levels may impair a child's mental development and damage organs, while even small amounts can affect a child's intellectual development, according to The New York Times.

"We thank God that the filters work, but we are not in any way having a victory lap," said Ras Baraka, Newark's mayor, as the New York Post reported. "It is good news in a long and arduous task to make sure we have clean drinking water."

Baraka is looking to lead by example, insisting that he drinks the water now, as WCBS reported.

Since it is not a victory lap, the city will continue to distribute bottled water until a final report on the test samples is issued and all doubt about the efficacy of the filters is removed. Additionally, the city will launch a community assistance program to help ensure all affected residents are using the filters correctly, according to the AP.

New Jersey recognizes the scientific consensus that there is no safe level of lead in the water, so it is waiting for President Trump to sign a bill that allows $100 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to be used to replace lead pipes in New Jersey, as CNN reported.

Gov. Murphy said that 6,500 households in Newark have signed up for lead service line replacement, and so far more than 900 service lines have been replaced. The city is replacing the lines at no cost to homeowners thanks to funding recently secured by Essex County. The Essex County Improvement Authority announced in August that it will lend $120 million to Newark to replace lead pipes, which will allow the city to fix 18,000 lead service lines in two to three years, instead of the initial expectation of eight to 10 years, as CNN reported.

The National Resource Defense Council, which has sued Newark over lead levels and its mismanagement of its water problems, welcomed the results, but expressed caution.

"We say 'trust, but verify,'" Erik Olson, a senior director at the group, said, as The New York Times reported. "The city, state and federal Environmental Protection Agency should provide all test results and the protocols used to test the filters to the public so Newark residents can feel confident that filters will protect their health. Anything less than full transparency will breed further distrust and skepticism."

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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