In a four-hour hearing that ran through lunch, the newly-formed Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure gathered input on the current condition of the state’s drinking water infrastructure and what improvements are necessary to ensure a safe drinking water supply. Committee Co-chairs Sen. Linda Greenstein and Asm. John McKeon opened the session by detailing the importance of the issue to New Jersey’s economy, environment and communities. They were joined by Asm. John Di Maio and Asw. Elizabeth Muoio, sitting in for Asm. Raj Mukherji who was out of the country. Task force members Sens. Kip Bateman and Bob Smith were also reported as being out of the country.
Former New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio, honorary co-chair of Jersey Water Works, kicked off the testimony with wide-ranging remarks. Others testifying included:
- Margaret Waldock* and Chris Sturm (testimony), representing Jersey Water Works
- Daniel Van Abs* (testimony) of Rutgers University
- Andrew Hendry* and Robert Brabston (testimony), representing the New Jersey Utilities Authority
- Michael Maloney (testimony) of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union
- Peggy Gallos,* Dave Harpell and Pam Carolan (testimony) of the Association of Environmental Authorities of New Jersey
- Joan Matthews (testimony) of the National Resources Defense Council, on behalf of Larry Levine*
- Steve Blankenship, Mike Furrey and Chris Andreason (testimony) of the American Water Works Association New Jersey Chapter
- Dave Pringle of Clean Ocean Action
* Jersey Water Works Steering committee member
Extensive press coverage, listed below, highlighted the committee’s thoughtful questions and ensuing discussion. Several common themes emerged, including the importance of asset management as a way of prioritizing necessary repairs, the need to increase investment to improve the quality of drinking water infrastructure, and the benefits of employing a holistic “One Water” approach that considers all forms of water and water management in concert. It became clear that better information on drinking water infrastructure systems, including who manages them and their current condition, is needed.
The task force will hold a second information-gathering hearing on Dec. 14, after which a complete transcript will be made public. The group will then turn to solutions and may extend their deliberations beyond the original six-month time frame originally envisioned.
Media coverage of the hearing:
- Troubles with New Jersey’s drinking-water system: Easy to spot, costly to correct (NJ Spotlight)
- Statewide water infrastructure repairs needed (NJTV News)
- Losing a third of its water through leaky pipes, New Jersey considers system upgrade (NewsWorks/WHYY)
- State’s aging and leaky pipes need costly upgrades (The Record)
- New Jersey lawmakers to consider spending billions to upgrade aging water systems (NJ101.5)