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OPINION | Newark’s cry for Trump

Democrats in New Jersey love to attack President Trump, but they are now begging his Administration to fix Newark’s lead-tainted water that they ignored. Here is another parable of how liberal governance is corroding America’s big cities from the inside out.

After New Jersey in 2017 mandated that large water systems be tested every six months, more than 20 percent of water samples in Newark were found to exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold requiring action. For more than a year city officials denied there was a problem. “NEWARK’S WATER IS ABSOLUTELY SAFE TO DRINK,” the city website declared last year.

A robocall in spring 2018 said lead-tainted water was “confined to a limited number of homes.” But then a study last fall for the Newark Department of Water and Sewer Utilities revealed that shoddy corrosion treatment was causing lead to leach into the water — the same problem that poisoned water in Flint, Michigan, a few years ago.

Newark officials last fall handed out filters to residents while still insisting the water is safe. “When you make a statement that the drinking water is not safe, it is yelling fire in a crowded room,” Mayor Ras Baraka explained at a press conference. “In fact, Newark has some of the best drinking water. The problem is that our infrastructure is not safe.” This nuance was lost on residents and scientists.

Earlier this month the city tested water in three homes with filters, and two showed lead levels four times the federal limit. Mayor Baraka again minimized the danger, which prompted a sharp letter from the EPA on Friday. “It is essential for the City of Newark to advise residents with known or suspected lead service lines that until further notice they should not rely on the efficacy of the filtration devices,” EPA Regional Administrator Peter Lopez wrote to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and mayor.

State and city officials last week passed out bottled water to residents, though deliveries were delayed after many bottles were found to be past their “best use date” of May 30, 2019. “We are now in panic mode in this city because the feds had to come in to tell us to stop drinking the water,” one resident waiting in a water line told local ABC News.

Mr. Baraka still downplays the problem while demanding money from Washington to replace his city’s aging pipes. Sen. Cory Booker, Newark’s prior mayor, tweeted that the “water emergency demands our federal government’s immediate attention. Everyone deserves clean, safe water — it’s shameful that our national crisis of lead-contaminated water disproportionately hits poor black and brown communities like my own.”

You can count on Mr. Booker to turn a Democratic government failure into a racial attack on Republicans. A few months ago the senator was howling that the Trump Administration had “gutted the EPA, rolled back clean air and clean water protections.” But while the Trump EPA rescinded Barack Obama’s lawless climate-change rules and land grabs, it has placed a higher priority on cleaning up contaminated land and water.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday belly-flopped into Newark’s water hole, declaring that “the EPA and the federal government are going to have to punch their weight.” But under America’s system of cooperative federalism, providing safe drinking water is mainly a state and local responsibility. Where has he been these many months?

The central problem is that Democrats too often prioritize green fashion statements over essential government functions. Newark has installed solar-powered trash compactors on city streets. We doubt this is consolation for residents who can’t drink water from their own tap.