News Feature | December 19, 2018

Violations At NJ Utilities Enumerated In New Report

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

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A new analysis of New Jersey drinking water reveals widespread challenges.

“More than 1.5 million New Jerseyans are served by a utility that has been cited for excessive contaminants since April 2014, when the Flint water crisis was revealed, according to an analysis of U.S. EPA data by USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey,” The Asbury Park Press reported.

“The data shows that water utilities in the Garden State have racked up at least 226 contamination violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act since Flint became synonymous with tainted tap water and put other water systems under a spotlight,” the report continued.

The report shows the state’s water challenges extend even beyond Newark, which is undergoing a major lead crisis.

“The revelation that Newark is facing a potentially widening public health crisis over tap water has angered many residents and raised questions about whether the city’s negligence has placed young children at risk,” The New York Times reported.

But New Jersey is hardly alone in its challenges. An additional news report from USA Today provided a nationwide look at drinking water challenges in a new report. Here’s what the investigation found, per the report:

  • About 100,000 people get their drinking water from utilities that discovered high lead but failed to treat the water to remove it. Dozens of utilities took more than a year to formulate a treatment plan and even longer to begin treatment.
  • Some 4 million Americans get water from small operators who skipped required tests or did not conduct the tests properly, violating a cornerstone of federal safe drinking water laws. The testing is required because, without it, utilities, regulators and people drinking the water can't know if it's safe. In more than 2,000 communities, lead tests were skipped more than once. Hundreds repeatedly failed to properly test for five or more years.
  • About 850 small water utilities with a documented history of lead contamination — places where state and federal regulators are supposed to pay extra attention — have failed to properly test for lead at least once since 2010.

The report highlighted disparities in drinking water system safety.

“At the end of the day, it creates two universes of people,” said water expert Yanna Lambrinidou, an affiliate faculty member at Virginia Tech, per the report. “One is the universe of people who are somewhat protected from lead. ... Then we have those people served by small water systems, who are treated by the regulations as second-class citizens.”

Image credit: "water faucet," karen nador © 2002, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/