Expert: NJ towns should start revamping water infrastructure for the future

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An associate professor at Rutgers University says that New Jersey municipalities should start planning to revamp their water infrastructure for the future.

Daniel Van Abs says that many towns across the state have water pipes that are a century old and just waiting to break.

“The question is not really whether they’re going to break. It’s when they’re going to break. They will break. Every one of these old lines will break,” Van Abs says.

Van Abs’ comments come as the city of Hoboken deals with its 17th water main break since June 23. SUEZ Water says that Hoboken’s issues stem from old and neglected water pipes. Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla says that the city is considering a lawsuit over the issue.

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Van Abs says that the recent rash of water main breaks in Hoboken isn’t surprising to him, given the age of the system, an increased demand on the supply, and constant construction in the city. But he says that the issue isn’t exclusive to Hoboken.

“It’s happening in Hoboken today. In January it will happen somewhere else,” he says.

He says that most cities and even suburbs in the state are showing their age.  Some towns have been more proactive in addressing the problem. But Van Abs says that all older New Jersey municipalities are feeling the heat from their out-of-date water systems.

“All the older places in New Jersey have decades’ worth of deferred maintenance. Decades’ worth of deferred replacement and rehabilitation of their pipes, and they are showing it,” he says.

Van Abs says that towns across the state should be planning for the future.

“Every city should be looking at what they expect to be 30 years from now and figure out what their infrastructure needs will be in 30 years from now and start working toward it,” he says.

Van Abs says that the process of replacing water mains can cause weak spots in the system, causing other water main breaks.

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