Sunday, December 4, 2016

NJ drinking water problems: Easy to find, costly to fix


Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:


Here’s why it will cost billions of dollars to overhaul the state’s aging drinking-water infrastructure:


At least 20 percent of the system is more than 100 years old. Between 20 percent and 30 percent of treated water leaks from the system before it ever gets to the faucet. At least 137 public schools in New Jersey tested positive for lead in at least one drinking-water outlet this year.
No wonder a legislative task force yesterday began delving into what improvements are needed in the system delivering drinking water to customers. The lawmakers heard plenty about the problems, but few answers on where to get the money to solve them.
“The hardest part is where will the money come from,’’ conceded Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer), co-chair of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure.
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Do not pin your hopes on the federal government, warned the other co-chair, Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex). The federal government has shaved funding for drinking water projects by 75 percent in recent years, he said.
All of which likely means that if investments are to be made in the future, it will translate into higher bills for customers, who now pay roughly a penny a gallon for drinking water, according to Andrew Hendry, president of the New Jersey Utilities Association. His group represents six investor-owned water companies, serving about 40 percent of the state’s population.
There may not be a consensus yet on how to pay for the needed upgrades, but there was wide agreement that the state’s economic future and much more depends upon a clean and affordable supply of water.
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