Sweeney/Greenstein Bill To Protect NJ’s Drinking Water, Upgrade Water Systems Becomes Law

Sweeney Woolwich

Trenton – The governor today signed legislation that would help ensure the safety and reliability of the state’s drinking water for New Jersey’s families. The law, S-2834, authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Linda Greenstein, entitled the “Water Quality Accountability Act,” will better protect the state’s drinking water and water supplies at the same time it boosts infrastructure investments. 

“As we’ve seen far too many times, the safety and integrity of the nation’s drinking water and the systems that provide it are in jeopardy, and this is something we simply cannot allow to happen in New Jersey,” said Senator Sweeney. “This law will help to improve the reliability and safety of the state’s drinking water through early detection of water quality issues, transparent reporting and by making needed infrastructure investments. This is about establishing statewide standards for all water systems that are consistent with the industry’s best practices. It would also help address the water investment needs that have been neglected for decades so that we can better protect the water that is used and consumed by New Jersey’s children and families.”

Senator Sweeney said the law will help to modernize the state’s drinking water systems, noting that much of the infrastructure was built in the 19th century and is now leak-prone, susceptible to water-quality problems, and expensive to maintain. 

“This law will initiate the process of improving the state’s water systems so that they are safe, reliable and serve the needs of the public,” said Senator Greenstein, who is also co-chair of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure, which is studying issues surrounding the future of clean drinking water systems, sewer overflow and leakage. “It will help make the water systems that supply our communities accountable for making the necessary investments in their infrastructures, including the pipes, wells, and treatment facilities.”

The law will require water companies to annually assess their infrastructure and develop a plan to identify and fund the most needed improvements.

The key provisions of the bill would require:

  • Field testing of valves and hydrants in accordance with industry best practices, such as those implemented by the Board of Public Utilities for water purveyors it regulates.
  • Implementation of a cybersecurity program, such as the BPU’s already established New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell.
  • Establishment of an action plan for Notices of Violation received by public water systems.
  • Development of an asset management plan including water main renewal that meets the minimum criteria of a 150-year replacement cycle, as well as production facilities.
  • Written certification from responsible corporate officer of the public water system (if privately held), or the executive director (if an authority) or the mayor or chief executive officer of the municipality (if municipally owned) of each water purveyor annually to confirm the adherence to the requirements of this law.

Recognizing the importance of safe water supplies nationally, Congress took action to address the need. The U.S. House approved the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act to address the Nation’s water infrastructure and resources needs. The WIIN Act will help improve drinking water resources, water storage, minimize droughts, and flood controls. It is one of the more significant actions taken by Congress in recent years.