Drinking water study advances

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Legislation to study the condition of New Jersey’s drinking water cleared the Assembly recently in a 64-0 vote. The bill, sponsored by Assembly members John McKeon, Mila Jasey, Tim Eustace and Jamel Holley, will create a task force to review the state’s drinking water infrastructure.

The concurrent resolution establishes the “Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure,” which is charged with identifying both short-term and long-term solutions and making recommendations to address the quality and condition of drinking water infrastructure in the state.

The task force, which will be composed of three senate and three assembly members, will be directed to call upon the Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, the Division of Water in the Board of Public Utilities and representatives of investor-owned and government-owned water utilities to offer their respective expertise and experience concerning the condition of the state’s drinking water infrastructure, as well as recommendations for necessary improvements to ensure a safe drinking water supply.

The bill’s sponsors note that the water crisis in Flint has raised concerns across the country about the water filtration process and the risk of contaminants in the water system, especially lead.

Holley told LocalSource that Flint was definitely a wakeup call. “I think that Flint kind of made folks just jump up and check how their systems are doing,” said Holley. “This bill will allow us to come up with some regulatory actions if they are not already in place. I think that most towns are in line for clear drinking water,” said Holley, who is hopeful that the study will find that many water sources in Union County are safe and lead-free. “An aging water infrastructure means New Jersey’s communities will become more and more vulnerable to flooding, contamination or even loss of power during severe storms. We need to know the good and bad pertaining to the state’s water system before we can take the necessary steps to repair it. This legislation helps us do that.”

In the legislation, sponsors also note that the state has historically been proactive in promoting safe water sources and has enacted numerous statutes aimed at protecting the state’s water supply.

Holley said the study should take about six months to complete. The task force will organize, prepare and submit a report containing its findings and recommendations, including proposals for legislation and other appropriate legislative or regulatory action.

The resolution was approved by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on May 3 and now awaits further consideration in the Senate.