New Jersey Strong news – Sierra Club NJ Taylor McFarland reports 8.14.2019 –

Trenton – Senate President Steve Sweeney, Chair of Senate Environment and Energy Committee Senator Bob Smith and Chair of Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee Senator Troy Singleton held a press conference today on the impact of the Water Quality Accountability Act, the landmark 2017 law intended to help ensure the safety and reliability of the state’s drinking water systems.

“It is important for the legislature to have hearings on making sure our water companies are cities are held accountable when it comes to the water we drink. There are too many problems in New Jersey from one county to the next. Whether it is PFOAs, volatile organic chemicals, cyanobacteria in our reservoirs, or lead in Newark or Camden. For too long, New Jersey has failed to adequately protect its drinking water and is putting the public at risk. This is mainly due to DEP’s failure to enforce the Clean Water Act,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We thank President Sweeney, Chairman Smith, and Senator Singleton for holding these hearings and to take a look at our water system throughout the state. It is critical now more than ever with all of the problems we are seeing throughout the state.”

In New Jersey, about 1.6 million, are exposed to PFOA and PFOS than in any other state.  The chemicals are particularly dangerous because they’re water soluble and cannot be filtered out of drinking water. The New Jersey Sierra Club has urged a 5ppt standard on both chemicals. Federal inaction on the chemicals in our drinking water under President Trump has increased the need for tougher state standards.

 “We have serious problems throughout the state when it comes to our drinking water. That is why we need to make sure that different water purveyors identify their problems and correct it. EPA estimates that in New Jersey, there are 3500 contaminated sites that affect groundwater that are in sphere of drinking water wells. About 1 in 5 residents in the state receive tap water containing at least trace amounts of PFOA and PFOS. The EPA detected PFOA levels of at least 20 parts per billion in 14 drinking water systems, including Ridgewood Water, Fair Lawn, Garfield, Wallington and Hawthorne. Adopting a 13ppt standard for PFOS and 14ppt for PFOA, New Jersey would have the toughest standards in the country however we believe standards should be at 5ppt,” said Tittel. “DEP also need to protect our drinking water from contaminated sites with chemicals such as 1, 4 dioxane, lead, arsenic, chromium”

Many cities in New Jersey have serious lead problems in the their drinking water. Lead levels in Newark’s water supply tested at 52 parts per billion between January 1 and June 30 of 2019. These are the highest levels ever recorded in Newark, an increase from 48 parts per billion during the last 6 months of 2018. This month, The EPA tested and found high levels of lead with filters in two residences in Newark. Currently the city is providing bottled water to residences impacted.

“We need the DEP to hold people accountable to fix our water systems. Newark is an example of the ongoing lead crisis we have in New Jersey. This is a public health emergency putting people at high risk. This is not just happening in Newark, we have incidences of lead happening across the state in areas like Paterson, Camden, Morristown, and in 30 towns in Bergen County.  Children are particularly vulnerable to brain damage and permanent developmental problems from even small amounts of lead. We need a minimum of $2.3 to 8 billion statewide to fix our lead problem. We cannot settle for smaller Poland Spring measures that do not do enough to reduce these dangerously high lead levels. We need to protect our most precious resource, which is our children,” said Tittel. 

Many of New Jersey’s lakes, including the Manasquan Reservoir has suffered from harmful algae blooms. Just last week, levels of cyanobacteria at the reservoir were above the NJ Health Advisory Guidance. People are urged not to drink or make contact with the water. If fish are caught in the water, they should not be eaten.

“Toxic levels of cyanobacteria in the Manasquan Reservoir should be an alarm bell going off to the Murphy Administration and the legislature. Harmful algae blooms have impacted several of New Jersey’s lakes and conditions are still bad. This is a serious issue, especially since the reservoir is a major drinking water supply for Monmouth County. We need tougher rules on stormwater management and bring back Septic Management Districts,” said Tittel.

The 2017 law established new accountability requirements for public and private water companies to modernize their systems, including timetables, water quality standards and reporting requirements.

It’s been 2 years after the law was implemented, now the state must do an assessment with the DEP on all of our different water systems. We need to assess and identify any problems. The legislature need to come up with funding for water plants, sewer treatment plants, and to fix our stormwater system. They also need to use their oversight role to make sure the law is being followed, assessments are make, and people are held accountable to clean up our drinking water. DEP need to replace Christie’s rules, they need to adopt the strongest standards that protect our drinking water from harmful chemicals. Our environment is changing, therefore we need to adjust, adapt, and be prepared. It is too important for too many people,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “When we look at the status of New Jersey’s drinking water system, is the glass half empty or half full? We don’t know and we may not be able to drink what’s in the glass anyway.”