Lead is not normally found in drinking water at the source. Typically, lead gets into drinking water from the service lines, plumbing and fixtures that contain lead. As a result of corrosion, lead and other metals from the pipes slowly dissolve into the water. Many factors affect the amount of lead that leaches into the water, including lead content of pipes, fixtures, and solder, along with water temperature, pH and hardness. Lead is associated with adverse health impacts even at low levels, particularly in infants and children.
According to an American Water Works Association survey from 2018, New Jersey has an estimated 350,000 Lead Service Lines (LSLs). To address the risk from lead in water, Jersey Water Works, with support from The Fund for New Jersey, convened a 30-member task force of representatives from local, state and federal governments; water utilities; academia; environmental, smart growth and community advocates and public health organizations. Beginning in December 2018, the task force worked to determine practical, cost-effective, equitable, and permanent solutions to ensure that people across the state can access drinking water free from the risks of lead.
In October 2019, New Jersey’s Governor Phillip Murphy announced a statewide plan to address lead exposure from paint, water, and soil that included a goal of fully replacing the state’s LSLs within ten years, the time estimated to find and eliminate all of New Jersey’s LSLs. A week earlier, Congress enacted a law, proposed by Senator Booker, enabling New Jersey and other states to shift capital from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) to the Drinking Water SRF, supplying critical funding.
The plan implemented key recommendations put forward by the task force, and includes the proposal of a $500 million bond to support LSL replacement; remediation of lead-based paint; enabling utilities to use rates paid by customers to support LSL replacement on private property; and improving the state’s inventory of LSLs.
The NJ I-Bank is doing its part by offering loans at 50% principal forgiveness and 50% I-Bank market rate funding.