WASHINGTON — New Jersey state officials would be able to transfer $100 million from their federal clean water fund to help replace the lead pipes that have contaminated Newark’s drinking water under legislation that passed the U.S.
The bill, passed by voice vote, would help the state cover some of the $132 million it will cost to replace the lead water lines in Newark, as well as provide financial help to other municipalities.
The money would be transferred from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
“Some states, including my home state of New Jersey, have federal funds available but are restricted from using them to address lead in drinking water,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, U.
Cory Booker, D-N.J.
“This legislation would give New Jersey the flexibility to supplement Newark’s bonding package and provide immediate assistance to Newark residents.”
The measure now goes to the House.
“The federal government has a duty and an obligation to ensure that each family in New Jersey and across our country has access to safe and clean drinking water,” said U.S.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.
J., a co-sponsor of the bill.
Newark has faced elevated lead levels in its drinking water since 2017, and Mayor Ras Baraka has called for replacing all of the city’s 18,000 old lead pipes. The city began in August to distribute bottled water after tests showed unhealthy amounts of lead in two of three tested homes despite the use of filters.
Baraka called the Senate legislation “great news for Newark and for any city that is working to invest in their water infrastructure and protect their communities.”
“This federal legislation could lessen our debt load while replacing every service line in the city, at no cost to homeowners,” Baraka said.
Gov. Phil Murphy also applauded the Senate action, saying the state needed federal assistance to address the problem.
“Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right, but states and municipalities can’t upgrade our nation’s aging water infrastructure alone,” Murphy said.
Booker, a former Newark mayor, introduced the legislation in May.
At the time, he said the state already had transferred the maximum amount it could from its clean water fund to its drinking water fund, even though there was more money available.
He said he tried to include the funding in the bill setting defense policy for the 12 months beginning Oct.
1, and sought Senate passage before the August recess, but was rebuffed both times.
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