It’s not just lead in Flint; how recent developments in Newark may indicate a larger crisis

Posted at 8:33 PM, Mar 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-17 20:38:19-04

NEWARK, N.J. -- Thursday saw a variety of developments involving dangerous lead levels locally and nationwide that are reminders of how widespread the issue is, and how it appears to be part of a larger, national situation of dangerously aging infrastructure.

Among Thursday's news were the release of results of lead testing in the water systems of Newark, New Jersey public schools. They appeared to confirm that officials in New Jersey's largest city were aware of dangerously high lead levels in drinking water as long as four years ago.

The results coincided with the first day of voluntary testing for lead in the blood streams of Newark students, particularly in the youngest years, where children are most susceptible to lead poisoning.

Also on Thursday, residents of New York City public housing starting getting details of an investigation that was revealed in court papers Wednesday. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is probing how the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, is handling environmental conditions, such as lead paint removal, in its 178,000 apartments.

Also, on Capitol Hill, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, a Republican, testified before the House Oversight Committee about his handling of high lead levels in Flint, near the center of the state.

"Let me be blunt," Snyder told the committee members, "this was a failure on all levels."

But Flint's lead issues have underscored a problem nationwide, including in Newark and 2,000 other water systems nationwide, according to a USA Today Network investigation. It's got many engineering experts, policy advocates, and cultural observers calling it a potential crisis of infrastructure nationwide, for which there is a need for action. What can be done?

However, "I'm not significantly optimistic," said Ian Wishingrad to PIX11 News. As the CEO of the BigEyedWish media consulting firm, he said that a solution may lie in messaging. Municipalities, he said have got to "keep banging the gong to get people to say, 'All right, we've really got to address the situation."