TRENTON – Two pieces of legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner and Senator Linda R. Greenstein that would improve the notification process when a boil water advisory goes into effect and protect customers when water is unsafe for consumption cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee today.
The bills are a response to the Trenton Water Works debacle back in January that saw a delayed response advising customers to not drink water that had been contaminated. The response to customers from the city water works took hours to get out even after the water treatment facility had already been shut down.
“The health and well-being of our residents is too important to allow another debacle to occur like the one we saw in January,” said Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Consumers should be notified immediately when a boil water advisory is in effect so they can take steps to protect the public’s health.”
The first bill, S-1241, would require a public water system to provide a prompt public notice when a “boil water” notice is in effect. The public water system would be required to contact customers via phone call, email, or text message. The operator of the public water system would also be required to notify its customers of the rescission of a “boil water” notice in the same manner that the notice was issued.
The second bill, S-1242, would require a public water system to send “boil water” notices to the mayor and municipal clerk of the affected municipalities within an hour of a notice going into effect. The public water system would also notify the mayor and municipal clerk that the “boil water” notice has been rescinded.
“This issue extends beyond Trenton. Trenton Water Works alone, for example, serves tens of thousands of residents and businesses in surrounding towns like Hamilton Township, so these bills would require public water systems across the state to be held more accountable when water is found to be contaminated,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Additionally, the more quickly customers can be notified, the better we can protect the health of the public. I believe that these requirements will address concerns with the public utility’s delayed response.”
A violation of the proposed notification requirements would be a violation of New Jersey’s “Safe Drinking Water Act” and subject the public water system to potential penalties at the discretion of the Department of Environmental Protection, including, but not limited to, civil penalties.
The bills were released from committee with a vote of 4-0. The bill, S-1241, next heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration, while S-1242 next heads to the Senate for further consideration.