POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Task force recommends voter referendum to improve water infrastructure

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

The Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure unanimously approved a final draft report over concerns over lead in the water in New Jersey, leaking pipes and other long standing issues. In the report, one of the recommendations calls for state lawmakers approving some $400 million to get the project started.

“Of course our taxpayers and the state Treasury are already burdened with heavy loads and commitments, but the costs of doing nothing will far outweigh the cost of preventive action in pure dollars as well as economic losses to rate payers and the cost of emergency repairs, estimated at 10 times the cost of a planned replacement. Many of our delivery systems are small concerns without the resources to tackle major infrastructure or even assessment projects without some help. That is why you’ll see in our final report we’re proposing the state borrow some $400 million in general obligation bonds to begin addressing these problems in our communities,” said co-chair Sen. Linda Greenstein

“I’m glad that you’re optimistic, senator, relative to what might come out of the Trump administration. We were all a year ago hoping that we would see that by now, God know,” Co-chair Assemblyman John McKeon said. “With that being the case, we’ve got to look out for ourselves. And in that sense, you and I and hopefully in a bipartisan way, are seeking the voters’ approval for a $400 million referendum.”

“I just hope that, and I’ll make my points brief, that number one, we prioritize the needs of the big three items that were enumerated in the report and that we put the water infrastructure first. Certainly by now something should have been going on with replacing any lead services that serve any public or school building,” said Assemblyman John DiMaio.

Chris Strum, managing director of policy and water for New Jersey Future, said, “It’s really the start of a conversation. We’re looking forward to Governor-elect Murphy taking office next week, and at New Jersey Future we’re looking forward to working with the governor and the Legislature and all the water utilities in figuring out how to tackle this problem. This report is laying some good first steps.”

Lawmakers say this is not a partisan issue, as they insist there’s no more precious a resource than clean drinking water.