The federal government is providing New Jersey $229 million in grants to address weaknesses in the state’s water infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Wastewater and drinking-water treatment facilities were severely damaged in the storm. The money is to be given to local communities as low- or no-interest loans, although 30 percent can be used as direct grants.
New Jersey’s water infrastructure has been deemed in major disrepair even before Sandy, with a recent report by a nonpartisan group of former state officials pegging the cost of fixing it at $40 billion. Sandy’s impact, which included damage to 20 percent of the state’s sewer plants caused by flooding and power loss, resulted in millions of gallons of untreated sewage pouring into waterways.
The Christie administration has come under heavy criticism from environmentalists and regional planners for not including sustainability and planning projects in the first round of federal Sandy grants. With the EPA’s announcement on Thursday, New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel, a frequent Christie administration critic, applauded the EPA for its help but continued to pound on the administration, saying it is just a drop in the bucket of what’s needed.