EPA Funds Will Help Garden State Resolve Some of Its Water Woes

Tom Johnson | September 7, 2018 | Energy & Environment
The $84 million to be distributed across New Jersey will go toward addressing outstanding issues with sewage treatment and drinking water

Credit: City of Hoboken
A rain garden behind Hoboken City Hall collects overflow from cisterns that take runoff from the roof.
Money to fix contaminated wells in Winslow Township. Funds to install rain gardens in the city of Camden to reduce pollution from runoff. A project to prevent raw sewage from flowing into the Raritan River.

These projects and more are among those that will be financed with the award of $84.5 million to New Jersey from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday.

The funds, when combined with a state matching grant and other loans, are expected to finance up to approximately $450 million of clean-water and drinking-water infrastructure projects, according to federal officials.

The awards are the latest annual appropriation that funnels federal dollars to help states like New Jersey address an assortment of environmental projects intended to improve water quality and drinking water.

The grants are used to leverage state funds in the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank to finance more than 100 projects throughout the state.

For more than three decades, that entity has provided low-interest loans to municipalities to help finance expensive improvements to wastewater treatment plants and drinking-water supplies, as well as stormwater systems in need of upgrades.

Like the $6.6 million targeted for the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority to reduce pollution from combined sewer overflows — systems that allow raw sewage to flow into rivers during heavy rainfall — by installing rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff.

Filtering out radium

The township of Winslow will obtain $7.4 million to remove radium contamination from two of its drinking wells. Newark will receive $62.7 million to build a constructive cover for its Cedar Grove Reservoir, a step that will protect the quality of the drinking water it delivers to customers.

In addition, the borough of Raritan will receive $360,245 to repair or replace decaying sewer pipes that are spewing pollution into the Raritan River, a source of drinking water for many.

“Working with our state and local partners to ensure our communities have affordable access to clean drinking water remains a critical priority for EPA, said the agency’s regional administrator, Pete Lopez.

Even so, the need to upgrade the state’s drinking-water systems and sewage treatment plants far outstrips available funding. By the EPA’s own projections, New Jersey needs to spend $17 billion to fix its aging water infrastructure, not including $8 billion to overhaul its drinking-water systems.

Under the program, the EPA awarded $65.6 million to the state’s fund to address wastewater treatment and another $18.9 million to its drinking-water fund.