What to Know
Kelvin Beachum showed up in downtown Newark earlier this week with the greatest gift he could provide -- water
After seeing reports on TV over the summer about the situation in Newark, Beachum decided to try to make a difference
NJ's largest city is dealing with serious drinking water issue, stemming from old lead pipes through which it flows into about 15,000 homes
Kelvin Beachum showed up in downtown Newark earlier this week with the greatest gift he could provide.
Lots and lots of bottles of it.
New Jersey's largest city is dealing with a serious drinking water issue, stemming from the old lead pipes through which it flows into about 15,000 homes. While improvements are steadily being made by the city to replace the pipes and provide filters, the New York Jets left tackle wants to be sure residents are getting what they need.
“I think water's a human right,” Beachum said. “And clean water, especially in America, is a basic human right.”
Newark residents with homes containing lead pipes began receiving bottled water in August after lead levels tested high in some places even while using filters. The city has begun replacing about 18,000 of its pipes leading from water mains to residences, financed by a $120 million bond taken on by Essex County. Newark has distributed more than 100,000 cases of water since mid-August, and recreation centers also are giving out water filters and replacement cartridges.
“The city is making strides,” Beachum said. “The government is saying they've got it taken care of, but I think there's still a huge trust factor that still has to happen for people that had contaminated water to say, ‘Hey, two months later, the water is fine.’”
After seeing reports on TV over the summer about the situation in Newark, which mirrored water emergencies in Flint, Michigan, and Washington, D.C., Beachum decided to try to make a difference.
He donated $10,000 to the United Way of Essex and West Hudson and then spent a day off during training camp helping to distribute 100,000 bottles of water to residents. After seeing the impact firsthand, Beachum wanted to continue to help.
So Beachum partnered with PepsiCo Inc. and pledged that for every bottle of Aquafina water bought during the Jets' game against the Giants at MetLife Stadium last Sunday, one bottle would be donated to the United Way of Greater Newark. He ended up giving out 26,000 more bottles of water on Tuesday.
“They were blown away,” said Beachum, who was selected the NFL Players Association’s “Community MVP” on Friday for his efforts. “There was one family where the first time I did it, they were actually on their last case of water when I delivered another three cases. On Tuesday, it was a single mom with seven kids that came and picked up cases of water.
“To be able to impact people that actually need it? I mean, she has seven kids and she's only got two bottles of water left and you get three cases of water that you weren't expecting, for me that's the impact that I desire to make.”
Beachum, who was raised in Mexia, Texas, has focused on clean water as one of his many charitable platforms.
“It's just mindboggling,” Beachum said. “You've got 15,000 families — kids, elderly, infants — that have to decide where their clean water is coming from to be able to make formula, to be able to take a bath, brush your teeth — simple things like that. You might say, 'Aw, you don't have water.' No, you've got to wash vegetables with water, wash your hands with water, brush your teeth with water, take a bath with water. It's all those things that people might not think about.
“The fact it's happening in Newark, and we're right down the street — I wanted to make sure I was able to do something about it.”