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Judge to settle impasse in New Jersey water emergency

By Nicholas Sakelaris

Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Residents of Newark, N.J., are waiting to learn whether a judge will order the city to hand out bottles of water in response to lead contamination in the public supply, as well as some filters that were given out that don't work.

The judge heard arguments last week but has not made a decision. He was set to return to court Monday morning.

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The Newark Education Workers Caucus and Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit this month accusing Newark of violating federal water laws. The lead isn't coming from the source water but from failed water treatment at the Pequannock treatment center, it argues.

Advocates want door-to-door bottle delivery in east Newark, which isn't served by the treatment plant believed to be the source of the contamination. City officials argue it would be too expensive to distribute water bottles to all pregnant women and children 6 or younger. An estimated 14,000 homes will have to continue relying on bottled water for at least another month, Mayor Ras Baraka said Sunday. The city distributed 70,000 cases of bottled water last week.

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"It's going to take us maybe a month, at minimum, to figure out if these filters are working or not," Baraka said.

The city said Monday most homes get water from a different system that's been deemed safe, and that bottled water will go to the affected areas "out of an abundance of caution."

Some have called for Baraka to resign. It's also affected Sen. Cory Booker, who was Newark mayor from 2006 to 2013. He and Gov. Phil Murphy have both called clean water a basic right.

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