Lead Service Replacement Legislation Signed Into Law

Trenton – In an effort to ensure every New Jerseyan has access to safe drinking water, two bills sponsored by Senators Troy Singleton, Vin G0pal, Linda Greenstein and Joseph Lagana, which would replace lead service lines and reduce the costs associated with the replacement of the lines, were signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy.

“According to the American Water Works Association, there are around 350,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey served by lead service lines,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington), Chair of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. “This is especially concerning because drinking water contaminated with lead is extremely dangerous to a person’s health, especially for children and their development. These new laws are crucial towards detecting and replacing lead service lines across the state, ultimately working toward the goal of ensuring that every person in this state has access to safe drinking water.”

The first law, formerly S-3398, sponsored by Senators Singleton, Gopal and Greenstein, will require public water systems to inventory and replace lead service lines (LSL) within 10 years. The law will also authorize an investor-owned public water system to recoup the cost of lead service line replacements. 

“We have long known that lead service lines affect the quality of our drinking water, and endanger our children, and it is time we started addressing the problem with real, long-term solutions,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “Low-income customers are often the most affected by these lead lines, and they should not have to incur the cost of replacing them when they fall on their property. We need to move quickly to appropriate funds, where needed, to replace aging lead service lines for the good of our state, and its public health.” 

Additionally, each public water system in the State will now be required to develop a service line inventory in order to determine the existence or absence of an LSL at each service connection in the area. 

“It is estimated at least 20 percent of lead exposure towards humans comes from drinking water, with formula-fed infants possibly receiving 40 to 60 percent of lead exposure from the same source,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “In recent years, a number of New Jersey water systems, particularly those in urban areas, have reported high lead action levels in their drinking water and we must do what we can to alleviate this issue. This legislation will be a huge aid in eliminating the risk of further exposures. No one should have to think twice if it is safe to grab a glass of water and this will bring us a step closer towards ending this problem.”

A second law, formerly S-3459, sponsored by Senators Singleton and Lagana, will amend public finance laws to remove existing restrictions on the ability of local governments and authorities to finance the cost of LSL replacements. 

“In 2017, 4,697 children aged six and younger had elevated blood lead levels,” said Senator Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It is evident that lead-contaminated water is a statewide problem and this law will help to stem this crisis before more residents are impacted. In addition, this law will be critical in assisting low-income households to afford replacement of lead service lines, ensuring they get replaced promptly before more of our residents are affected.”

Prior to the enactment of this law, municipalities and affiliated public water purveyors were authorized to levy special assessments and issue bonds to replace LSLs, including the portion of the line that extended onto private property. However, that law applied only to LSL replacement projects that are undertaken as “environmental infrastructure projects” funded by loans issued through the Department of Environmental Protection or the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank.