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Clean Water Bills Approved by Senate Committees

Trenton – A series of clean water bills to address the lead contamination crisis and protect the state’s water quality gained the approval of two Senate committees today.  The four bills would require public water companies to make an inventory of lead service lines and develop a plan to replace them within 10 years, require schools to make water tests accessible, inform potential home buyers of lead pipes, and allow municipalities to better facilitate the replacement of lead pipes that serve residential properties.

One bill, S-4177, would require public water systems to develop an inventory of lead service lines and adopt a plan to replace them within 10 years. Sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), the bill was approved by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

“Safe drinking water is a human right. Unfortunately, across the country and here in New Jersey, we are struggling with how to address both the current water crisis and the long-term problem of upgrading our aging water infrastructure,” said Singleton. “That is why we need to do an immediate inventory of lead service lines and have a plan to replace them.  By taking these proactive steps, we can make New Jersey a national leader in solving the crisis of lead and other pollutants in our water supply.”

The bill calls for water systems to create and submit to the state Department of Environmental Protection a detailed inventory of all known lead service lines in their distribution systems within 18 months. The utility will then have 90 days to provide notice to any customers served by any lead pipes, including information about the health effects of lead exposure and steps customers can take to reduce their exposure.

Another measure, S-4115,  would require the Department of Education to compile and publish all school drinking water reports, testing results and schedules of all schools on its website in an accessible way. The information would have to be posted in a prominent location on the DOE’s website with a hyperlink to school district test results.

Sponsored by Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex), the bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee.

“Greater transparency and accountability are needed to ensure that our water systems are reliable and that our drinking water is clean and safe,” said Senator Greenstein. “This is especially important for the drinking water in our schools that is being consumed by our children.”

The DOE three years ago required all school districts to test their drinking water for lead, but the information was not made widely available.

A third bill, S-3990, would require the disclosure of lead plumbing in residential properties as part of the property condition disclosure statement. Sponsored by Senator Joseph Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic) and Senator Singleton, it was approved by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

“The presence or absence of lead pipes in a home is information that a buyer should have before purchasing a property their family will live in for years to come,” said Senator Lagana. “It’s basic consumer information that could have an impact on the health and well-being of family members, as well as the value of the home.”

In New Jersey, a real estate broker or salesperson is required to provide a disclosure statement that outlines any defects or deficiencies of a residential property, but the requirement does not currently include environmental hazards, such as lead plumbing.

Also gaining committee approval was S-4110, which would give municipalities the authority to adopt an ordinance allowing them to go onto residential properties to replace lead service lines, as long as they notify residents at least 72 hours in advance.

“It’s critical that we create a permanent solution to eliminate the risk of lead in our water for all families. This bill will help municipalities achieve that, even when they are unable to reach property owners,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Especially in communities with large renter populations, this will ensure towns can take action to protect families and individuals living in homes with unresponsive landlords.”

Municipalities would be required to notify residents in advance, informing them in person and posting a written notice if they are unable to be reached. Following the line replacement, the municipality would be required to send a certified letter summarizing the work completed. The legislation was approved by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

All the bills were released with unanimous committee votes.