Newark wins national environmental award for program to replace lead pipes

NEWARK, NJ — Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced March 30 that the city of Newark and its engineering partner CDM Smith have won the Water Data Prize for the city’s Lead Line Replacement Program.

The Environmental Policy Innovation Center awarded the prize based on Newark’s performance in “demonstrating how lead pipes across America can be replaced quickly and equitably to ensure access to safe, clean drinking water.”

“We are proud to have received this national-level recognition for our efforts to eradicate lead in our city and create a safer, healthier and stronger Newark for our residents,” Baraka said. “This victory belongs to every member of Newark’s community who collectively achieved it. It is our hope that other cities across the country will follow our model program to provide their residents with clean, safe and reliable drinking water.”

The award is given by EPIC, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping build policies that deliver “spectacular improvements in the speed and scale of conservation and environmental progress.”

The city recently completed the nation’s most ambitious and efficient lead line replacement program, pulling more than 23,000 lead service in less than three years. The city’s herculean task has been lauded by national environmental groups as the “model city” for eliminating dangerous lead lines from its delivery system, and Vice President Kamala Harris echoed that sentiment in a visit to Newark several weeks ago.

“Any awards or recognition we get for our lead line replacement must be shared with our residents,” Newark Water and Sewer Utilities Director Kareem Adeem said. “Their cooperation and support, and their willingness to let us into their homes, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, proves they trusted the city to get this major infrastructure job done and protect the quality of their drinking water.”

EPIC said more than 50 organizations and individuals from communications and technology firms, academia, community groups, and water utilities submitted entries aimed at effectively replacing lead water pipes. The Newark team and CDM Smith were the overall winners and will receive a $50,000 prize, which will be invested in other water projects.

“Toxic lead pipes carrying our drinking water, installed a century or more ago, have no place in the modern world,” said Maureen Cunningham, director of water strategy at EPIC. “EPIC is excited to see the new ideas, tools and technologies submitted to this year’s Water Data Prize to address lead pipe replacement faster and more equitably.”

The contest was judged by a panel of 14 water experts and environmentalists from around the nation. For more information about EPIC, the award and Newark’s submission, visit