When Newark announced it was handing out 40,000 filters to residents believed to be at risk of high lead levels in their water, it came as a surprise to some. This was in October, and for more than a year, the city of 285,000 people had said Newark’s water was “absolutely safe to drink,” while robocalls to residents assured them their water was not contaminated.
The city’s messages did include an important caveat: that “the only high lead readings were taken inside older one- and two-family homes that have lead pipes leading from the city’s pure water into those homes.” But the clarifications usually came after messaging touting the water’s safety. For many residents, some of whom didn’t know what a lead service line was and whether their homes and buildings had one or not, the caveat wasn’t the message that stuck.
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