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Newark's Mayor: There's No Comparison Between His City And Flint, Michigan, When It Comes To High Levels Of Lead

NEWARK (CBSNewYork) -- Newark's mayor is denouncing comparisons between his city and Flint, Michigan, when it comes to high levels of lead.

Mayor Ras Baraka said Thursday it's not a fair comparison.

Baraka said he is seeking environmental justice for the people of Newark. High levels of lead have been found in homes and schools since 2016. Baraka said his administration is addressing it.

"Flint purposely didn't put the corrosion control inhibitor in their water. Ours stopped working," Baraka said. "That's a marked and clear difference."

The city said the source water is fine. The most recent issue occurred when the corrosion control inhibitor stopped working. To remediate this, the city passed out home water filtration systems last month.

The real problem stems from the old infrastructure. Lead service lines were banned after 1953, but still 15,000-18,000 single- and multi-family homes may be affected, but not bigger buildings.

"Because apartments do not have lead service lines," Baraka said.

A lawsuit claims the city has not taken adequate precautions. Some residents CBS2's Meg Baker spoke to said there has been confusion in the city of 280,000.

"There's a lot of single mothers here," said Newark resident Stephanie Debina. "We deserve clean water."

"It's a debacle," added Newark resident Louis Shockley. "The communication has been poor."

The city said it started going door to door in October. With the help of the state, the mayor said it will take more than eight years to replace the lead service lines. It's a $70 million undertaking.

Some 70 percent of Newark residents are renters. The mayor said the city has been delayed by unresponsive landlords since their permission is needed to enter private property.

Right now, most of Newark has safe water but there are pockets around the city that don't.

Newark's lead service line website has more specifics.

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