Standards matter: Utility, policy groups praise Murphy, Legislature for new laws on lead poisoning

Two of the three bills Gov. Phil Murphy signed Thursday to help make the state a leader in the fight against lead poisoning contained language specifically aimed at water infrastructure — much to the delight of industry officials.

New Jersey American Water President Mark McDonough said the bills go hand-in-hand with NJAW’s vision.

“As a company that has long prided itself on holding the highest standards of quality and safety, New Jersey American Water applauds Gov. Murphy and the Legislature for their action,” he said. “These new laws will ensure that water providers are held accountable for making the necessary investments and improvements needed to keep New Jersey’s water systems safe and reliable.”

The Utility and Transportation Contractors Association, a nonprofit trade association headquartered in Wall that represents approximately 1,000 member firms in the public and private sectors, also applauded the signing.

“Today has brought some of the most important developments our state has ever taken around efforts to deliver clean, safe drinking water to all of New Jersey’s residents and businesses,” CEO Robert Briant Jr. said. “Removal of the state’s lead service lines will ultimately be seen as one of the greatest public health achievements in New Jersey’s history. Strengthening the (Water Quality Accountability Act) provides an additional level of safety and quality enhancement checks over our water systems.

“These changes were made possible by the determination of those who recognized that, just because we can’t see the problem, doesn’t mean there isn’t an immediate, pressing need to fix the problem. Replacement of these lead service lines means a healthier New Jersey while also creating much-needed jobs as we emerge from the pandemic.”

The three bills did the following:

  • S1147/A1372: Requires lead paint inspection on certain residential rental property, including upon tenant turnover; establishes lead-based paint hazard education program; appropriates $3.9 million.
  • A5343/SS3398: Requires public community water systems to inventory and replace lead service lines within 10 years; provides for recoupment of costs by investor-owned public water systems.
  • A5407/S3459: Removes restrictions on special assessments and bond issuances for replacement of residential lead service lines; revises budgetary requirements for operators of certain water systems.

New Jersey Policy Perspective, a frequent critic of the administration, praised Murphy on Thursday.

“These new laws represent a sea change in how a state can combat lead poisoning,” senior policy analyst Peter Chen said. “New Jersey is now the first state in the country with a hard target to eliminate lead service lines in 10 years, as well as a funding mechanism to finance that investment.

“New Jersey needs robust infrastructure to protect its residents, especially children, and provide safe and healthy homes to future generations. The new laws recognize that lead is a problem across housing infrastructure, including both water infrastructure and paint. We are one step closer to ending lead’s toxic legacy in our state thanks to this legislation.”

McDonough said NJAW is eager to move further in that direction.

“New Jersey American Water knows firsthand what compliance with the Water Quality Accountability Act and proactive action on lead service lines mean for New Jerseyans: it means safe, reliable, compliant water service for our 2.8 million customers,” he said. “It means protecting New Jerseyans through consistent monitoring of water quality parameters and the use of corrosion inhibiting compounds to neutralize the presence of lead. It means diligently working to replace utility-owned lead-service lines and assisting customers to replace their service lines when detected.

“Every day, we are proactively addressing these issues. Standards matter. Service matters. Safety and clean water matter. We are glad the governor and our elected representatives feel the same way.”