A state Senate panel has recommended that changes be made to New Jersey’s water quality law.
The suggestion was made following several significant cases of lead contamination in the drinking water in some New Jersey cities – particularly in Newark.
“All of our lives are so busy. And we’re faced with so much. And if a water main breaks or something happens along those lines, we all see it and we know that’s an issue,” says state Sen. Troy Singleton. “But our water infrastructure is aging right in front of us. And because it’s underground, mostly we don’t know how bad it’s deteriorating.”
The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee spent months investigating the quality and management of the state's water. On Monday, they began work on tweaks to the state's Water Quality Accountability Act.
“It needs some buffering and it needs some bolstering,” Singleton says. “I think that’s what we did here today.”
The changes would include making water companies submit more detailed plans for their upgrades. Other bills would require New Jerseyans selling their homes to disclose if the building has lead water service lines.
“People need to know when they move into a new home or an apartment whether or not there’s a lead service line,” says Chris Strum with the group Policy and Water at New Jersey Future.
Last October, Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled an ambitious $500 Million plant to replace every lead service line in New Jersey. But the funding for that plan won’t be available until after a bond vote in November.
"What we've seen in Newark proves that it can work. Newark is replacing on the order of 80 lead service lines a day,” Strum says. “They're going to be completely done…in about three years. That's what we want to see happen in every city in New Jersey."
Singleton says that it is time to set things right in New Jersey.
The bills introduced by the panel still need to be approved by the full state Assembly and Senate before going to the governor’s desk.