Bill Would Improve NJ’s Water Infrastructure [AUDIO]
New Jersey's aging water infrastructure is the target of a new bill being introduced in both Congress and the Senate by Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-9) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
On Monday, two lawmakers stood in front of construction crews in Cliffside Park as corroded water pipe was being removed. Their presence was part of an effort to introduce the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act of 2014.
In addition to a glut of main breaks in Newark, Jersey City and Passaic, the two legislators stressed the dire condition of the state's water infrastructure.
"When we don't see it, we don't deal with it, until it's a crisis," Menendez said. "When's that crises? When the water main erupts, when the sinkhole occurs, when communities have their traffic snarled, and when citizens lives are affected."
The bill calls for more investment from private companies of public water infrastructure through changes to the federal tax code, which would allow tax exempt private bonds to be used on water projects.
"Unleashing $50 billion in private capital investment at a cost to the taxpayer of $141 million over the next several years," Pascrell said.
The congressman said it would act as a stimulus to the construction sector, which is seeing unemployment above the national average. He also noted for every billion invested, 28,500 jobs are created.
On average, the lawmakers said many of New Jersey's underground water pipes are more than 70 years old. United Water New Jersey said it sees 450 water main breaks annually.
Pascrell said quarter of all water that is lost through these breaks is treated and usable.
"I mean it's not a sexy thing to talk about, but think about this, the water that has already been fixed so we could drink it-that's the water we're losing," Pascrell said.
United Water President Robert Iacullo was also in attendance during the press conference. The company has said it is investing $220 million over the next three years to upgrade its network in North Jersey.
Similar bills have attempted to pass the House and Senate before. The new bill is being attached to a major transportation infrastructure package.