Environmental Infrastructure Exec. Director: Infrastructure Has Problems

October 10, 2014 | Around NJ, Energy & Environment

Hurricane Sandy’s toll on New Jersey’s water supply was devastating — 400 water systems and 94 waste water treatment plants┬ádamaged or destroyed. Hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage spilled into the state’s waterways. Moody’s estimates the tab at more than $2.5 billion. Now The Environmental Protection Agency is awarding the state $229 million just to shore up the water systems. Environmental Infrastructure Trust Executive Director David Zimmer told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that there are problems with infrastructure in the state.

“I think there’s actually probably two different answers for that,” said Zimmer of why the problems exist. “First one would be we’ve got aging infrastructure. A lot of the infrastructure that handles both the drinking water and the sewerage in the state was built 50 to 60, sometimes even 100 years ago and it has been stressed beyond its average useful life. And then the second part of that answer is when Superstore Sandy came through in October of 2012 it certainly exacerbated that situation but in of itself it devastated completely viable and functioning and sometimes new systems.”

Zimmer also said that the state has a lot of work to do to repair and protect infrastructure including those damaged by Sandy and the long term issue of aging.

A new batch of money was announced last week, part of $1.3 billion that Gov. Chris Christie authorized back in August. According to Zimmer, the way to look at that money is for the demand of projects, towns and utility authorities.

Zimmer said that it’s a start, though scientists project that storms will increase in severity.

“It’s certainly a great start in the right direction,” Zimmer said. “You can look at any number of surveys that are out there, whether it’s the American Society of Civil Engineers or the AWWA [American Water Works Association], everybody has a slightly different number, but we’re north of $15 billion to $16 billion in needed infrastructure on the clean water part. So to the extent, we’re $1.3 billion into it in one year. That’s a great number.”

Previously Zimmer said, “We are literally investing in ourselves.” According to Zimmer, it’s a way to think of how one spends. He said that he uses the analogy of spending $500 on a backup battery for a sump pump that works well and helps preventing flooding into a house. Zimmer also said that it’s a way to avoid spending money on any further damage.

“And so I think that’s probably the easiest analogy I could use when we spend $1.3 billion in investing in our infrastructure,” Zimmer said. “You’re not going to have as much emergency repairs, you’ll be better prepared for the next storm. You won’t be using as much in energy because you’ll be buying newer, more energy efficient equipment. So it goes a long way towards paying for itself over the long haul.”