News & Updates

Requiring Improvements to NJ drinking water systems now up to Christie

Jun 9, 2017

TRENTON — It’s up to Gov. Chris Christie to decide whether water companies in New Jersey ought to comply with more rigorous standards to replace antiquated pipes and protect against cyberattacks.

The state Assembly Thursday voted 76-0  to approve the “Water Quality Accountability Act” that would demand improvements to outdated water systems.

The Senate approved the same bill on May 25 by a 39-0 vote.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, called the bill (S2834) “a good first step” to address the state’s “crumbling water infrastructure.”

“Under this bill, if there is a series of violations exceeding the safe drinking water standards, then they have to come up with a plan to mitigate for the problems and start to fix them,” according to a statement from Tittel.

“This bill also calls for water companies to assess the systems and then develop plans for replacing mains,” a problem that is especially acute in cities. “We think the cycle is too long and that we should be doing more now because of all the problems with old leaky pipes.”

The president of New Jersey American Water, which serves 2.7 million New Jerseyans in 18 counties, also expressed his support for the legislation.

“We believe there is nothing more important than safe drinking water and our water quality record is testament to that commitment to our customers,” Robert MacLean said in a statement. “This bill aims to ensure accountability from all water providers so that New Jerseyans can feel confident in the quality of their water.”

The bill would require water companies to annually assess their infrastructure and develop a plan to make the repairs. The assessment would include hydrant and valve tests, a blueprint to address violations, and an annual certification from the company’s top corporate officer the law had been followed, according to the bill.

The bill’s Assembly sponsors focused on the bill’s requirements that water systems would need to be upgraded to prevent cyberattacks.

If signed into law, each water company would be required to develop a cybersecurity program to protect the public water system that meets the approval of the state Board of Public Utilities.

“Cybersecurity threats to our water are a public safety and health risk,” said Assembly sponsor Robert Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “Codifying and extending current regulations to all water purveyors will help to ensure preparedness in light of cybersecurity concerns.”

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by both Democrats and Republicans –a partnership not often seen in the Democrat-led legislature. President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Sens. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset), Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer) and Robert Gordon (D-Bergen) shared prime sponsorship of the bill.

Susan K. Livio