Saturday, April 30, 2016

What will it take to repair NJ's ailing water infrastructure?

Lead is just the most publicized of several serious problems; meanwhile, costs for consumers continue to climb

The New Jersey Legislature appears poised to take a crack at fixing the state’s aging drinking-water systems, which have exhibited several highly visible problems in recent months.
Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:
A special legislative task force would be given six months to come up with recommendations to deal with issues related to the drinking-water infrastructure under a measure (SCR-86) to be considered early next week.
The issue, long festering even while being acknowledged by state officials and experts, is daunting. New Jersey faces at least $8 billion worth of needed improvements, according to estimates by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The problems are well documented. Schools in Newark and elsewhere have had to switch to bottled water as water fountains and sinks have been found to contain high levels of lead, a dangerous contaminant. At least 20 percent of treated water leaks from aging pipes before it ever gets to the home. New pollutants, some not even regulated, show up in supplies more often.
As policymakers wrestle with those issues, the cost of delivering safe drinking water to consumers continues to rise. Yesterday, the state Board of Public Utilities approved a pair of rate increases, including one for Suez Water New Jersey, which is among the state’s larger water companies.
The safety of drinking water delivered to customers emerged as a top priority after reports last year of widespread lead contamination in the city supplies of Flint, MI, and then again after unsafe levels of lead were reported in 30 Newark schools last month.
“Lead is what made people aware of how fragile our drinking water is, but there are a lot more problems than just lead,’’ said Chris Sturm, who directs policy development and advocacy for New Jersey Future. “We all assume our drinking water is safe -- until it’s not.’’
For too long, those problems have been ignored, say some environmentalists.
“This administration especially, but others as well, are guilty of being (missing in action) when it comes to protecting our drinking water,’’ said David Pringle, campaign director for Clean Water Action, one of the state’s largest environmental organizations.
Read the full story here

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