NJ lawmakers seek to improve state’s water system

A new proposed bill would help to improve the state's aging water infrastructure.

A new proposed bill would help to improve the state's aging water infrastructure. (2/8/16)

HACKENSACK - Several of New Jersey’s top Democratic leaders say that they plan to introduce legislation to improve the state’s aging water infrastructure.

The water company SUEZ says that on average, water pipes in New Jersey are about 70 years old. Some of the pipes even date as far back as the 1860s.

“Think about that for a second,” says Sen. Robert Menendez. “When you open up your tap, the water that comes out may have traveled through pipes that are more than 150 years old.”

Old pipes can lead to all types of problems, including water main breaks. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, there is a water main break in the United States every two minutes.

Sen. Menendez, along with Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Bill Pascrell, will introduce the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act, which calls for a change to a tax code that would get rid of a cap on government private activity bonds for water projects.  The bill has been proposed several times before, but never passed.

The lawmakers say that improving the state’s water infrastructure is vital in preventing contamination similar to what is happening in Flint, Michigan, where water is contaminated with lead.

“We have to be proactive in the state of New Jersey to make sure a crisis doesn't happen in the first place,” says Sen. Booker.

Representatives from SUEZ says that while it’s not impossible for something like Flint to happen in New Jersey, the company pretreats the state’s water and is constantly testing and sampling for lead levels.

SUEZ North American Vice President Robert Iacullo says that the proposed legislation would help make replacing pipes go much faster.

There are almost 2,200 miles of water pipes maintained by SUEZ.

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