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Contact: Fred Mumford


(02/68) TRENTON---New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell will hold a community meeting to present results of drinking water tests performed by the state at 87 private homes, schools and community centers in the City of Camden.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, August 15 at the Rutgers Camden Campus. DEP also will hold an availability session from 4 to 6 p.m. to discuss drinking water quality results with residents whose water was tested.

"The McGreevey Administration made an early commitment to the residents of Camden to address environmental justice issues that included taking action on drinking water safety," said Campbell. "We are following through with that promise, working with Mayor Faison and other elected officials. We have tested residents' homes, schools, community and day care centers, churches and businesses to ensure a safer city in which to live."

DEP will work with city and school officials to review existing drinking water data and take necessary measures to ensure a safe water supply before school opens in September. These measures will include further testing in Camden schools and private homes.

The Department conducted drinking water tests from March through June 2002 for lead, copper, iron, manganese, chromium, volatile organic compounds, mercury and total coliform at various locations. Out of the 39 private homes and businesses tested, seven showed lead levels above the state action level, one had elevated copper levels and one had both lead and cooper above the standard. Piping within the water distribution system and household plumbing is the source of the lead and copper. In addition, 14 private homes and businesses showed manganese levels above state standards and seven had elevated iron levels. Elevated levels of iron and manganese in water cause an unpleasant color or taste, but will not cause health problems. Out of the 48 schools, day care and community centers tested, 46 met safe drinking water standards for all contaminants measured, while two require re-testing due to a sampling error.

"A majority of the samples taken did not indicate unsafe levels of contamination. The eight properties with elevated lead levels were moderately above the safe drinking water standard and some follow up tests were below our action level," said Campbell. "Nevertheless, because the risk for multiple exposures to lead is greater in the urban environment, I am concerned for children growing up in a historically industrial area where lead in soil, lead-based paint in the home and lead found in drinking water can negatively affect development," said Campbell.

Campbell said the Department is working to provide educational materials to residents, community leaders and school officials about how they can improve water quality to reduce potential exposure to lead or copper contamination. In high doses, copper has been shown to cause stomach and intestinal distress, liver and kidney damage, and anemia.

"The risk present in homes and businesses with elevated lead and copper levels can be completely eliminated by following common sense measures like letting tap water run for about 30 seconds or until the temperature cools," Campbell said. "This is necessary before drinking or cooking anytime the water in a faucet has gone unused for more than six hours, usually in the morning and after work or school. And certain precautions should be taken when using hot water because it can dissolve lead more quickly than colder water."

"The Department is working with the Camden Water Department to begin replacing lead piping and other infrastructure using $6.5 million in state loans in the next few weeks," said Campbell. "The Camden Water Department has been replacing and relining its water distribution system over the past several years, which includes $16.8 million in completed projects."

DEP also is consulting with the Camden Water Department to address elevated levels of iron and manganese that can dissolve from old cast iron pipes. This effort includes reviewing the water utility's treatment process. Flushing water lines with fire hydrants and reducing the amount of iron and manganese that dissolves into the water will minimize discoloration, odor and taste problems.

(The meeting location at the Rutgers Camden Campus is 401 Penn Classroom. The entrance is located on the side of the Paul Robeson Library on North Fifth Street. The classroom is on the fourth floor.)



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