Clean Water Hearing Underscores Need For More Accountability & Transparency, Senators Say

Sweeney, Singleton & Greenstein Gauge Progress on the Water Quality Accountability Act

Trenton – Greater accountability and transparency are needed to improve the effectiveness and compliance of the state’s principle clean water law, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Troy Singleton and Senator Linda Greenstein said today following a public hearing on the implementation of the “Water Quality Accountability Act,” the 2017 law intended to ensure the safety of the state’s drinking water.

“It is clear that the Water Quality Act needs to be strengthened to provide the public with the information necessary to ensure their water systems are providing water that is safe for consumption,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland), who authored the law. “The law is intended to require best practices and to identify and improve non-compliant systems. It is a good law, but we may need to put more teeth in it to ensure compliance and accountability.”

The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, led by Senator Singleton, conducted today’s hearing, putting a focus on the progress that has been made with the law. It was the first of a series of hearings to help determine what legislative actions or revisions to the law are needed, Senator Singleton said.

“The effectiveness of the water quality law has not been fully realized,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “Greater transparency and accountability are needed to improve the effectiveness of the law. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that our water systems are reliable, that our drinking water is clean and safe, and these hearings will help us achieve address this priority.”

Information from the State Department of Environmental Protection indicates that many of the public water systems covered by the law have not fully complied with the law’s requirements.

The water quality law established new requirements for public and private water companies to modernize their systems, including timetables, water quality standards and reporting requirements. It requires water companies to assess their infrastructure annually and develop a plan to identify and fund the most needed improvements.

“Clean water is public health issue that can have long-term consequences if the water quality is not maintained,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Middlesex). “These hearings will take testimony and collect data on compliance and develop legislative remedies to ensure that the standards, regulations and enforcement are used to protect water supplies that are used by residents, families and children.”

The committee heard from state officials and water quality experts, including Joe Fiordaliso, President of BPU, Deborah Mans, Deputy Commissioner of DEP, Mary-Anna Holden, Commissioner of BPU, Chris Strum, Managing Director, Policy, and Water of NJ Future and Dr. Manny Teodoro, Director of the Policy and Politics Program at Texas A&M University.

“The law’s success will be contingent, in large part, on the accessibility of information made available to the public,” Senator Sweeney added. “The ultimate accountability is to the public and they need this information.”

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