State DEP: Getting Lead Out Of NJ Water Pipes Could Cost $2.3 Billion

Some 350,000 supply lines bringing drinking water to New Jersey residents are thought to have lead components

It could cost up to $2.3 billion to replace all of the estimated 350,000 water-service lines in New Jersey with lead issues, according to projections by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Where the state is going to find the money to tackle the problem remains a mystery, one that popped up as DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe was questioned yesterday by lawmakers during the agency’s annual appearance before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

“That’s a statewide problem,’’ said Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), referring to lead service lines that contribute to unsafe levels of the heavy metal in drinking water, not only in urban areas, like Newark and Trenton, but all over the state.

“In terms of financing, that’s our biggest challenge,’’ McCabe replied. “We don’t have enough funds to do it. I would put the ball back in the Legislature’s court so that we all could work together to brainstorm ways to help the people who have to replace those lead lines.’’

The issue of how to address the state’s well-recognized problems with lead in drinking water has emerged as a priority ever since Gov. Phil Murphy said it is time to focus on water-infrastructure problems in his State of the State address in January. More than 1.5 million people in New Jersey get their potable water from service lines with elevated levels of lead, according to Murphy.