About 200K N.J. residents will soon learn their water is being delivered by lead service pipes
The notices are the result of legislation signed last July by Gov. Phil Murphy that required New Jersey’s 570 community water systems to take an inventory of water service lines, notify residents of the potential presence of lead in those lines and replace the lines within ten years.
“Modernizing our aging water infrastructure with new service lines is critical in ensuring safe drinking water flows through our communities,” Murphy said in a statement.
Some 187,000 households are known to have lead service lines, which are about the size of a common garden hose and connect the main water line to homes. The inventory of those lines is a work in progress, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said, and property owners who are affected will receive certified letters by Feb. 22.
“According to the American Water Works Association, there are around 350,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey served by lead service lines,” state Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, said in a statement. “This is especially concerning because drinking water contaminated with lead is extremely dangerous to a person’s health, especially for children and their development.”
Plumbing components containing lead and lead service lines are the most common causes of exposure to lead in drinking water. Long-term exposure to lead has been linked to several health issues, including behavioral problems, low birth weight, anemia and kidney damage, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said.
“There is no safe level of lead in drinking water or elsewhere,” state DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said during a press briefing Thursday. “It poses significant threat particularly to our children, and we have to eliminate it where we find it.”
The 570 community water systems that are required to replace lead lines under the new law represent a fraction of New Jersey’s 3,538 drinking water systems that deliver water to schools, hospitals and gas stations to name a few.
The law signed last year by Murphy requires that lead lines be replaced by the water system owners, whether it is a municipality or an investor-owned utility, LaTourette said. The lead service line replacement act has been criticized for allowing system owners to pass that cost along to customers and individual property owners.
To defray the costs, the DEP said it provides low-interest loans to water systems through a state revolving fund that has been bolstered with federal money from the Biden Administration’s bipartisan infrastructure act.
Vice President Kamala Harris visited Newark on Feb. 11, her second trip to New Jersey in four months, to praise state and local officials for quickly replacing the city’s lead water pipes. She touted Newark as a model for other cities and states as federal infrastructure money becomes available for similar projects nationwide.
“Here in Newark the work that has been done is a function of the collaboration between community leaders, elected leaders, and public health leaders,” Harris told NJ Advance Media during an interview following an event at a Newark youth recreation center.