Trenton – In an effort to ensure that every New Jerseyan has access to safe drinking water, the Senate today approved two bills which would replace lead service lines and reduce the costs associated with the replacement of the lines.
“The American Water Works Association estimates that 350,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey alone are served by lead service lines,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “This is deeply concerning, as these pipes elevate the risk of lead getting into our drinking water, which is extremely dangerous to a person’s health, especially our children. Both of these bills are crucial in order to detect and replace lead service lines. We must do all that we can to ensure that every New Jerseyan has access to safe drinking water.”
The first bill, S-3398, sponsored by Senators Troy Singleton, Vin Gopal, and Linda Greenstein, would require public water systems to inventory and replace lead service lines (LSL) within 10 years. The bill would also authorize an investor-owned public water system to recoup the cost of lead service line replacements.
“We have known for some time now that lead service lines affect the quality of our drinking water, and it is time to start implementing real, long-term solutions to address this dire problem,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “Low-income customers are often the most affected by these service lines, and they should not have to incur the cost associated with replacing lines that fall within their property. New Jersey must begin to take the necessary steps to appropriate the funds needed to replace lead service lines so our residents no longer have to worry about their drinking water.”
Under the bill, each public water system in the State would 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.
“The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 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 which is simply unacceptable. Everyone should be able to grab a glass of water without having to worry about possible lead contamination and we must mend this problem throughout the state immediately.”
A second bill, S-3459, sponsored by Senators Singleton and Joseph Lagana, would amend public finance laws to remove existing restrictions on the ability of local governments and authorities to finance the cost of LSL replacements.
“In 2020 alone, New Jersey had thousands of suspected opioid overdose deaths,” said Senator Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Evidence shows that when we increase the availability of opioid antidotes, the rate of overdose-related deaths diminishes greatly. By revising the current requirements laid out under the ‘Overdose Prevention Act’, we can train and equip more individuals with opioid antidotes, having the potential to save thousands of more lives.”
Under current law, municipalities and affiliated public water purveyors are authorized to levy special assessments and issue bonds to replace LSLs, including the portion of the line that extends onto private property. However, that law applies 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. This bill would remove those restrictions.
If enacted, both bills would go into effect immediately.
The bills were both approved by the Senate by votes of 40-0.