NEWARK, NJ (PIX11) — New Jersey’s largest city had yet another water supply emergency on Wednesday, a week and a day after a major water main break left most of the city high and dry.
Wednesday’s water emergency also came just days after two more water main breaks, as well as the lifting of a five day-long boil water order. It all has some residents and businesses frustrated and concerned, and it has activists saying that state and federal authorities need to do more.
Ashlee Sullivan is the property manager of a building that’s on the block where Wednesday’s water line emergency happened, on Academy Street, between Broad and Halsey Streets.
“[It’s] one of the oldest cities in New Jersey, so we’re used to it,” Sullivan said, but added that even for Newark, the recent spate of emergencies has been exceptional. “The re-occurring mishaps are really daunting.”
At 1:54 a.m., according to the city’s water department, a pipe burst, spewing water into downtown streets around Newark’s landmark old Prudential corporate headquarters.
It took a few hours for city workers to isolate the source, and to figure out how to ensure that the water didn’t spill into basements, or other locations. They managed to keep the water flowing to street drains.
Still, it shut down the block surrounding the water pipe break. It’s in one of the parts of the city that lost water starting on Tuesday of last week.
That’s when a 42-inch water main on the city border with the town of Bellville broke, cutting off water to four of the city’s five wards. It left things high and dry for homes, as well as businesses, including Yasser Hassan’s Dunkin’ location.
“Last week,” Hassan said, “was the same.”
He said that his business had to close on both Wednesday and Thursday of last week.
As for the latest water emergency, Hassan said, “They told us they will take maybe one or two days. [We’ll] be [closed] today and tomorrow.”
In other words, his business may potentially be closed for four of the last eight days. He said that he gets no compensation for what he’s lost.
Across Academy Street from the Dunkin’ is Bella’s Fashion Corp., a formal dress shop.
Chaandanie Ramnarace is one of the managers.
“When is it going to stop?” she asked. “It’s bad for business for sure.”
In a statement, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka pointed out that the latest incident is not a water main break. Instead, he said, in part, “an eight-inch service line break occurred.”
“This service line is for fire department use only,” the statement continued, “therefore, does not affect drinking water. Residents and businesses in the area have water.”
Ramnarace, the manager of the dress shop, proved that statement wrong. She took PIX11 News into the bathroom at her shop, and reached for the faucet handle.
“If I turn it on,” she said, as she turned the water on, with no results, “Nothing. Nothing.”
A city spokesperson said that Newark has invested $190 million in water infrastructure since Baraka became mayor eight years ago.
That has been followed by a similar grant in federal infrastructure money, which the city used to replace all of Newark’s lead pipes. Now, the State of New Jersey is considering a $300 million investment in water infrastructure. However, infrastructure activists, including Nicole Miller, the co-chair of Jersey Water Works, say that that amount is not nearly enough.
“When we’re talking about a $6 billion problem in the state of New Jersey,” she said in an interview, “$300 million dollars is just a drop in the bucket.”