N.J. to receive $221M from EPA to help modernize its water systems

New Jersey’s Infrastructure Bank will receive $221 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help the state complete 28 water infrastructure projects that are intended to modernize water systems to protect public health and the environment for over 5.8 million people in the state.

The announcement was made Friday morning in Washington, D.C., at an event with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette.

This Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act funding, combined with New Jersey State Revolving Fund monies, will support $588 million in infrastructure for New Jersey communities that will advance public health, save money and create local jobs.

The New Jersey Infrastructure Bank’s pool of SRF projects include 26 drinking water projects that address local challenges, including removing contaminants, preventing leaks, improving system resiliency and replacing lead service lines. Two wastewater projects will also receive funding. These projects will improve treatment capacity and provide higher a level of treatment at wastewater treatment facilities.

The entities receiving this financing serve over 5.8 million people. This includes six disadvantaged communities that will receive approximately $360 million in financing, or 61% of the total.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the money will have great impact.

“In New Jersey, we recognize that the state of our economy is inextricably linked to the health of our residents and our environment,” he said. “By generating jobs and maintaining water affordability, these projects will not only advance public health and sustainability, but stimulate economic growth as well.”

EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox said the EPA is eager to help — and that this is one of 84 WIFIA loans worth $32 billion in water infrastructure upgrades the EPA is making.

“EPA is proud to partner with New Jersey to innovatively invest WIFIA funding and benefit many communities by removing dangerous lead service lines, strengthening drinking water systems, safely returning wastewater to the environment and uplifting low-income communities and communities of color,” she said. “EPA is working to ensure that all Americans have clean and safe water — through the WIFIA program and by investing $50 billion in water through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

LaTourette said the loan — and the projects it will spur — will help many.

“By bringing this infrastructure up to date, we will be ensuring the highest standards of protection for public health and the environment, such as the important improvements at this Moorestown water treatment plant, and we will be creating jobs and economic growth,” he said. “This WIFIA loan will result in some 1,800 jobs and save the state approximately $51 million in New Jersey State Revolving Funds, allowing the I-Bank to finance more projects without costing borrowers or the state one dime.”

Utility and Transportation Contractors Association Senior Director Dan Kennedy said the day is an example of the progress that can be made when government is willing to innovate and expand beyond its traditional way of doing business.

Kennedy, however, said there is still work to be done.

“While we celebrate this progress, there is also an inescapable truth: This helps narrow the funding gap we face in addressing New Jersey’s full water infrastructure needs, but we are nowhere near ‘mission accomplished’ with today’s good news,” he said. “The state of New Jersey must continue this progress and expand funding by leveraging an additional $1.2 billion from its share of American Rescue Plan funding.”

UTCA of New Jersey is a nonprofit trade association headquartered in Wall that represents approximately 1,000 member firms in the public and private sectors, active in all phases of heavy, highway, utility and marine construction, as well as site work including remediation of brownfields and contaminated sites.

“This is an especially proud day for UTCA, as we fought to ensure that the I-Bank enabling legislation specifically allowed for the application and receipt of WIFIA funds,” Kennedy said. “As Infrastructure Week comes to a close, these dollars are another reminder that, with funding in place, we can make a real difference in overcoming New Jersey’s longstanding water infrastructure challenges.

“We need the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to apply the same spirit of innovation as they work with borrowers to get projects ready for construction. Our members can get to work starting tomorrow. All we need is the green light to move ahead.”