Camden Water Equity Taskforce

NJHI 2015: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action Building a Culture of Health in Camden

In recent years, water equity has become a hot button issue. Whether it pertains to lead in the water in Flint, MI, storm impact along the Gulf coast, or combined sewer overflows in the northeast, water management is a significant concern among households throughout the United States. To address these concerns, Camden stakeholders met in the summer to begin discussing “water equity.” Hosted by the Camden Water Equity Taskforce, participants identified Camden’s top water priorities as: lead awareness and water quality, water workforce development and climate resilience.

As far as water quality, stakeholders noted the water leaving the Camden water treatment plant is free of lead. However, the plumbing inside older homes may contain lead pipes. Another area of concern pertains to old pipes and rust, which can result in discolored (brown) water. Consequently, the community’s perception of the safety of the water and overall distrust regarding the safety of Camden’s drinking water remain a major concern.

As a result of that summer stakeholder meeting, several objectives were identified:

  1. To build the community’s trust and gain community members’ confidence regarding healthy and safe drinking water in the city of Camden.
  2. To expand community education initiatives about discolored water, water quality reports, flushing water, the potential of lead in internal pipes, etc. This work will include developing content and messaging in multiple languages, and utilizing social media, videos, schools, churches, and community organizations to get the word out.
  3. To quantify the scope and magnitude of lead in Camden’s water supply, compile this data, and use it to be more effective with outreach and future program development.
  4. To research existing ordinances regarding lead pipes in homes and discuss compliance, and
  5. To develop opportunities to replace old piping via a grant program or cost assistance program, consistent with initiatives in other cities across the country.

While there is still considerable work to be done, bringing Camden residents and other stakeholders together and getting everyone on the same page to pool resources and expertise around water equity are the critical first steps. Stay up-to-date and partner in this progress by connecting with our project director here.

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Val Galarza
Cooper's Ferry Partnership