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Newark's Lead Crisis Escalates

Health + Wellness
NBC News / YouTube screenshot

The city of Newark has begun passing out cases of bottled water as concerns mount over how effective filters provided to residents with lead water service lines may be.


New Jersey's largest city began handing out lead filters to primarily low-income residents with lead service lines eight months ago, but recent tests show that filtered water samples tested over the federal and state standards for lead in drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New York regional administrator ordered the city to begin handing out bottled water "as soon as possible" in a letter sent Friday.

The Natural Resources Defense Council sued Newark last year for failing to adequately monitor the lead levels in its water supply for years. "In the senior building it's bad," Emmett Coleman, a senior citizen who waited two hours for cases of water Monday, told the AP. "All of us are sick or have problems, and we can't drink the water. And the filters aren't working."

As reported by The Washington Post:

Public health experts agree that lead exposure is dangerous even at low levels. Lead can cause lasting damage to the developing brains and nervous systems of young children. The result can be long-term behavioral, cognitive and physical problems.
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Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Michigan pediatrician who helped bring to light the severity of Flint's water crisis in 2015 and who recently visited with residents in Newark, said the city needs to act quickly and aggressively to protect its residents — and work to hold on to whatever trust remains in its public officials. "For far too long, Newark has tiptoed around a comprehensive response to their lead-in-water crisis," she said. "Newark is what keeps me up at night now."

For a deeper dive:

AP, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CBS, ABC, Business Insider

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.