Trenton touts rapid improvement in city’s water quality

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora says the city has made improving water quality a top priority since July when he was sworn in.

“We’ve dealt with about eight years of mismanagement in Trenton Water Works and we’ve been really trying to turn the ship around,” Gusciora said.

Last week his office released new data showing contamination levels have dropped significantly since August when he says they were well above EPA standards.

Gusciora credits changes at Trenton Water Works — the city’s water utility — including hiring new people and upgrading systems.

“We think we’re well on our way to doing that, it just isn’t going to be done overnight,” he said.

Shing-Fu Hsueh was hired by the new mayor to run Trenton Water Works.

“Number one, we cleaned up the system,” Hsueh said. “Number two, we tried to minimize organic matter coming from outside.”

The director says the intake, which filters the water from the Delaware River, is more than 30 years old. He says they plan to redesign it this summer.

Hsueh says significant upgrades have also been made to the water filtration system, including cleaning one of the chlorine contact basins. The other will be replaced by the end of the year.

The city’s aging infrastructure — pipes that are a century old in some cases — have led to elevated levels of lead in the water supply. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection fined the city because it missed deadlines to replace the service lines.

The mayor agreed to address the issue in August.

“They never took into consideration all the upgrades and all the decisions we’ve made since July 1,” Gusciora said.

“The reason we have lead contamination is because of individual household piping systems,” said Hsueh.

Trenton Water Works plans to launch a lead service line replacement program in the spring.

A DEP statement says they “are currently evaluating the city’s compliance with the administrative consent orders.”

Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, says the city has made progress.

“What we’ve seen in the last seven to eight months is a water utility that’s turning the corner, that’s bringing in people that know what they’re doing, and is actually making the water safer to drink. So have they solved everything? No, but this is a heck of a lot better than it was,” he said.

Residents got notices from the water utility last summer alerting them that levels for one of the contaminants were above EPA safety standards. The Mayor’s Office says the city’s water is safe to drink even if residents are still getting those notices.