Shakima Thomas and her son, Bryce, in the kitchen of their Newark, New Jersey, home. Photographs by Demetrius Freeman for NRDC

Inside the Fight for Clean Water in Newark

Denials and delays from city officials have failed to keep residents safe from high levels of lead in their drinking water. These community organizers are busy picking up the slack.

Newark Water Coalition cofounder Sabre Bee (right) is often out in the neighborhoods, handing out educational materials on the dangers of lead exposure and talking with fellow residents, like this shopkeeper on South Orange Avenue, about how to receive one of the filters promised by the city.

Bee spends several hours each week canvassing Newark’s businesses and residents in an effort to alert the public to the health crisis.

Anthony Diaz, cofounder of the Newark Water Coalition, before the start of a Newark Water Coalition community meeting

At a Newark Water Coalition meeting, Diaz shares information on the lead contamination (top). Residents look over handout materials and listen to presentations.

Thomas at her home in Newark, where the water pipes were recently replaced, but concern for her family’s health and community remain.

Thomas’s son, Bryce, uses the water filter in the family kitchen. Lead levels in the water of their home measured a staggering 76.2 parts per billion in February 2019.

Yvette Jordan, a founding member of the NEW Caucus, at home in Newark’s South Ward. Jordan, a teacher, included a lesson on environmental justice in a recent class, in which she discussed the lead in Newark’s water and shared articles from Flint to help students understand the links.

Even low-levels of lead exposure have been linked to irreversible health problems and, for years, Newark has had the greatest number of lead- poisoned children in New Jersey.

Newark Drinking Water Crisis


Many communities across the nation are concerned about their water quality—especially the presence of lead. Here, Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who helped expose the lead water crisis in Flint, Michigan, talks about the dangers of lead in children and why we must protect them from this toxic metal.

onEarth Story

How an urban farm became an anchor for the city’s South Ward.

NRDC in Action

Nearly three years after winning a $97 million legal settlement that required the city of Flint to replace its lead water service lines, NRDC is still on the ground holding officials accountable, and using similar tactics as we demand clean water for the residents of Newark.

You Asked, We Answered

Seth Siegel, author of the new book “Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink,” says we must change people’s mind-sets and get to the root of the issue to ensure safe drinking water for everyone.


Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is helping to bring attention to the high lead levels in Newark, New Jersey’s drinking water—some of the highest recently recorded by a large water system in the United States.

Officials may have finally acknowledged the drinking water crisis in this New Jersey city, but that hasn’t stopped them from misleading residents. Here are the facts.

Personal Action

Residents of cities like Pittsburgh and Newark continue to face high levels of this toxic metal in their drinking water supplies. Here’s what to do if this crisis affects you.

onEarth Story

Vague regulations let government officials hide drinking water contamination from the public.

On Location

Partnering with NRDC and ACLU, residents of this Michigan city took their local government to court in a battle for safe drinking water.

Northeast Dispatch

The state now requires its public schools to test their drinking water for lead. But few districts have made it clear how they’re addressing the troubles at their taps.

Midwest Dispatch

For years the state has ignored its foamy rivers and water supplies contaminated with chemicals called PFASs.

Northeast Dispatch

The tireless efforts of locals are reshaping one of New Jersey’s most polluted areas.


After officials repeatedly dismissed claims that Flint’s water was making people sick, residents took action. Here’s how the lead contamination crisis unfolded—and what we can learn from it.


America is facing its second lead crisis. This time around, the effects are less obvious, but no less worrying.

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