News Briefs: Newark Mayor Says Comparisons to Flint Are 'Insulting'

Also in this week's water and wastewater news, scientists from Virginia Tech are researching antibiotic resistance in water reuse applications

Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Ras Baraka is fighting back against rhetoric claiming the city’s elevated lead and haloacetic acid levels are comparable to the Flint Water Crisis.

While the National Resources Defense Council has sued the city over the lead levels, the mayor maintains that comparisons to Flint are inaccurate.

“Our corrosion control inhibitor stopped working,” Baraka tells NJTV News. “We didn’t purposefully take it out of the water. So to make a comparison is not only disingenuous, to me, it’s almost insulting.”

As far as the haloacetic acid levels go, the NRDC says the city needs to modernize how it disinfects water. Baraka says the city is already addressing it. “This is not an emergency situation. You would have to drink water at that level for like 50 years in order for it to have the kind of effect that it would have,” he tells NJTV News.

Water experts to study threat of antibiotic resistance

Bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics lead to an estimated 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses per year in the U.S. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control is launching an expansive effort to study various facets of the growing threat by funding researchers across the nation, including two prominent water experts at Virginia Tech.

The CDC recently awarded two contracts to study antibiotic resistance in recycled water and in plumbing to Amy Pruden and Marc Edwards, both professors in the Charles Edward Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.

Pruden and Edwards received the noteworthy contracts as part of the CDC’s wider effort to address emerging public health priorities. The work Pruden and Edwards are set to conduct for the next year falls under one of the CDC’s 10 major research areas of interest surrounding disease control. Both will focus their efforts on antibiotic resistant pathogens and resistance genes in water systems.

Specifically, Pruden, the W. Thomas Rice Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is leading an effort to examine the issue in the context of wastewater reclamation, also known as water recycling or reuse. 

WIFIA Loans Could Fund $10 Billion in Infrastructure Upgrades

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is inviting 39 projects in 16 states and Washington, D.C., to apply for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans. Together, the selected borrowers will receive WIFIA loans totaling approximately $5 billion to help finance over $10 billion in water infrastructure investments and create up to 155,000 jobs.

“Through WIFIA, EPA is playing an integral role in President Trump’s efforts to improve and upgrade our nation’s water infrastructure and ensure all Americans have access to clean and safe water,” says EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This year, EPA will help finance over $10 billion in water infrastructure investments that will create up to 155,000 jobs, upgrade aging infrastructure, reduce lead exposure, and improve the lives of millions of Americans across the country.”

EPA’s WIFIA loans will allow large and small communities across the country to implement projects to address two national water priorities – providing for clean and safe drinking water including reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants and addressing aging water infrastructure.


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