N.J. announces $1 billion plan to upgrade water infrastructure

Published: Jan. 21, 2022

New Jersey has announced plans to use $1 billion in federal funds to begin upgrading the state’s drinking and waste water infrastructure over the next five years.

State officials said Thursday the plan will aim to fix water issues that have plagued some communities throughout the state, provide safe drinking water, reduce flooding, improve waterways, and create jobs.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the plan “reaffirms our commitment to modernize New Jersey’s aging water infrastructure and deliver safe drinking water to our residents.”

State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Sean LaTouretts said “this is our moment to make one-in-a-generation investments.”

The plan comes three years after elevated lead levels were found in drinking water in Newark, the state’s largest city — a crisis that sparked outrage and drew widespread attention. Newark has since replaced nearly all the leads lines in the city, despite estimates it would take a decade.

Meanwhile, Murphy signed legislation last year mandating inventories of lead pipes in New Jersey and requiring them to be replaced over 10 years, among other steps to end lead exposure in the state.

The money for the new plan comes from funds provided under the bipartisan federal infrastructure law that Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed into law late last year.

Still, it’s only a sliver of the estimated $30 billion the state needs for new pipes, equipment, and other improvements.

The money will be dispersed over time, with about $170 million slated for this year, officials said.

State officials said they will directly speak with communities and utilities about their water systems over the next three months to determine how the money should be used.

Some environmentalists, though, say the plan is a mixed bag.

Kim Gaddy, the national environmental justice director for Clean Water Action, told the Associated Press that advocates “need to watchdog this to make sure” the money is “spent the right way.”

Jeff Tittel, the former New Jersey director of the Sierra Club, told NJ Advance Media the funds are “a drop in the bucket, but we need every drop we can get.” He said the state also needs to put in more money itself.

“Is the glass half empty or half full?” Tittel asked. “It doesn’t really matter because you don’t want to drink what’s in it.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-01-22 01:48:21 -0800