New Jersey state Senate panel investigates state's water quality law

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The city of Newark made headlines recently as city officials deal with a lead-contamination issue in the drinking water. But state leaders say that the issue of the aging water infrastructure impacts all of New Jersey.

A state Senate panel gathered Tuesday to investigate if New Jersey’s water quality law should be strengthened.

Bordentown City is more than 50 miles from Newark, but the Delaware River community of fewer than 4,000 residents is also dealing with lead contamination, according to state Sen. Troy Singleton.

Bordentown City residents have not been told to drink bottled water. But Singleton says that due to a lack of centralized record-keeping, no one knows how many lead service lines the city has.

“Right now, there is no central repository or any information that we can point to because of that. So, as I sit here today, I couldn't tell you the exact number of lead service lines in any one community,” he says.

FULL COVERAGE: Newark Water Crisis

Singleton says that he wants this to change. His Community and Urban Affairs Committee heard about the oversight of the 287 public water systems statewide in a meeting on Tuesday in Trenton.

“Local governments have a lot of problems facing them, and water too often has been last,” says Chris Sturm with the group NJ Future. “We need to get ahead of the game with problems like lead in drinking water, and the Water Quality Accountability Act is the way to do that.”

The committee says that it will suggest adjustments to the 2017 law. Officials say that with an estimated 300,000 lead service lines statewide, a lot is at stake.

“The infrastructure is what generates business activity and allows businesses to be successful. If the infrastructure is poor, businesses and the economy of our state will suffer tremendously. So, this is of paramount concern to us,” says Board of Public Utilities President Joseph Fiordaliso.

State leaders say that last year 94% of water systems filed certification forms with the state. But they say that some of those forms were signed by officials who did not have the proper legal authority.

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