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Rutgers Researcher: Could Cost NJ Up to $9 Billion to Fix Water Infrastructure

5-16-14

There is general agreement that New Jersey’s water infrastructure is too old and too overburdened to handle modern day challenges. Rutgers University Associate Research Professor Dr. Daniel Van Abs told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that it could cost the state anywhere from $4 billion to $9 billion to fix the over 100-year-old water infrastructure in about 21 municipalities.

Van Abs said that New Jersey has about 21 towns with sewer technology built between 1860 and 1920. He said that it is very old technology that combines waste water and storm water and has it flow through the same sewer system. He said that is creating a lot of problems with regard to sewer capacity and clean water issues, so it is an issue that the state has to deal with.

He said that with the age of the systems, a lot of them are falling apart.

Van Abs said that to fix the systems, it would not be surprising for it to cost between $4 billion and $9 billion.

“The federal government has been implementing this program across the entire country so New Jersey municipalities are actually coming into this fairly late. We have no choice but to deal with this issue and it will cost a lot of money,” said Van Abs. “We have no choice but to improve our existing systems, which will cost a lot of money. The question is, how do we do that so that it works?”

Van Abs said that the critical issue is that if everyone takes the individual issues and responds to them by doing the minimum, necessary work to meet the regulations, a lot of money will be wasted. He said that if the municipalities integrate the improvement of the water systems with the redevelopment of cities and neighborhoods and the improvement of lifestyle, then there is the possibility of completing actions in a much more cost effective way.

Van Abs suggests coordinated plans between municipalities, water utilities and waste water utilities in terms of development process so that the planners have to work with the developers and the utility companies. He said that type of coordination does not happen easily, but it’s possible.

“If we look at other cities in other states, they have managed to do this. If others can do it, we should be able to do it as well,” said Van Abs.