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Local Food Company Organizing Water Drops For Newark



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A sleepless night of channel surfing has morphed into a philanthropic project that a local specialty food vendor hopes will bring relief to water-starved Newark, New Jersey.

“My brain wouldn’t settle down after a long day of work, and I couldn’t sleep,” Maple Craft Foods founder Dave Ackert told The Newtown Bee. “So I turned the news on, hoping the talking heads would do the job.”

Instead, Mr Ackert said he “saw a story which only made it harder to sleep.”

That television report focused on the Newark water crisis and how one church was working to distribute water to homebound residents and others without transportation to municipal water distribution sites.

In early August, the US Environmental Protection Agency ordered Newark to begin issuing bottled water to residents served by the city’s largest water provider.

The EPA’s order came after two of three households in the Pequannock service area that had received filters from the city still showed lead levels above 15 parts per billion, the allowable threshold.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which sued the city last year over high lead levels, is seeking an injunction to force the city to also provide bottled water to some of about 30,000 households served by a plant in Wanaque, northwest of the city.

An expert testified that providing two cases of water per week for three months to qualifying households — those with a pregnant woman or young children or both — would cost about $300,000.

“So Maple Craft Foods is initiating a water drive immediately,” Mr Ackert said. “We have reached out to area business partners that can serve as potential collection points for water donations.”

The local specialty food purveyor hopes to load his trucks with factory sealed cases and gallon jugs of water, “and deliver it to the Paradise Baptist Church in Newark, where they will distribute it to folks who have lead in their water.”

He said Black Hog brewing in Oxford held a fifth anniversary celebration on August 25, and the craft brewery agreed to be a collection point. Newtown’s Premier Wines & Spirits and Reverie Brewing Company along with the Newtown Congregational Church are participating as drop locations as well, along with the Church Hill Road and Sand Hill Plaza Newtown Savings Bank branches.

“We are lucky that we can take our clean water for granted,” Mr Ackert said. “[Our company] wouldn’t be able to make maple syrup without clean water, let alone our ability to brush our teeth, shower, cook, wash dishes, make baby formula — all during the hottest summer on record. Unimaginable.”

Mr Ackert said word of the local support effort has already reached the Newark congregation that will be serving as a distribution point for the eventual Newtown water donations.

“I received the following e-mailed message from Bishop Jethro James upon [his] learning about our drive: ‘Thank you sir God bless you and yours.’ And I received the following e-mailed message from Dr Kim Yancey James — wife of the Bishop and Executive Minister of Paradise Baptist Church: ‘Dave, this is awesome!! We are so appreciative of the love of support from wonderful people like yourself who are reaching out to help us. Thank you so much. Many blessings!’”

Any other business that would like to become involved can learn more by contacting Mr Ackert via e-mail at dave@maplecraftfoods.com. Residents willing to donate drinking water can learn about drop locations and follow progress on the initiative at the Maple Craft Foods Facebook site, or visit maplecraftfoods.com/donatewater.

Dave Ackert of Maple Craft Foods is in the preliminary stages of setting up a relief effort for residents of Newark, N.J., who are experiencing a drinking water crisis that he said appears to be on par with the recent debacle in Flint, Michigan. So Mr Ackert is organizing area water donation drops, including at the Sand Hill Plaza and Church Hill Road Newtown Savings Bank branches. Residents can learn more and find out drop locations at maplecraftfoods.com/donatewater. —Bee Photo, Voket
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