EPA and NJ announce $588 million in water infrastructure spending

MOORESTOWN, NJ (AP) — More than half a billion dollars in federal and state funds will go to nearly 30 water systems in New Jersey, serving about 6 million residents, or about two-thirds of the state’s population, officials said Friday.

The combined federal and state funding of $588 million in low-interest loans will cover a range of projects: In Newark, the state’s largest city, some $25 million will go to replacing utility lines in lead ; in the Philadelphia suburb of Moorestown, at the North Church Street Water Treatment Plant, where officials unveiled funding Friday, about $20 million will cover new filters to remove radium and other toxins some water ; in the Clinton campaign, a water supply system is receiving nearly $3 million as part of a water main expansion project.

The announcement is the latest orchestrated this year by the administrations of Democratic Governor Phil Murphy and President Joe Biden to retool and repair crumbling infrastructure. Vice President Kamala Harris stopped in Newark in February to highlight the city’s efforts to eliminate lead pipes.

The funding includes $221 million from the Environmental Protection Agency under a 2014 law known as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The rest comes from a mix of public financing and the sale of bonds from the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank, a public authority that finances road, water and other projects.

Environmental Protection Agency officials said the announcement demonstrates a partnership between state and federal governments that will strengthen water systems. EPA Deputy Administrator Radhika Fox also pointed to the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that Biden signed in November, though those funds are separate from the loans unveiled Friday.

Local and state officials hailed the investment, which will be rolled out over three years, with Moorestown Mayor Nicole Gillespie saying it was one of the largest in the city’s history.

It’s not free money. State water systems – for the most part – are at the mercy of investment, but the price they are paying amid low interest rates under the deal announced Friday means that ‘they will spend less, according to David Zimmer, executive director of the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank.

Zimmer pointed to Moorestown, which he said has a good credit rating and could get a good rate by selling its own bonds in the market.

“Instead, they come to our program,” he said. “It’s 30% cheaper. They should probably pay $23 million through us, but only $29 million.

New Jersey’s water infrastructure has been in the news in recent years due to 2019 outrage over high levels of lead in drinking water in the state’s largest city. Since then, Newark has mastered the problem, replacing almost all of the lead lines in about three years, when he originally estimated it would take a decade.

The state has also moved to replace lead pipes across New Jersey, with Murphy signing legislation last year that mandated lead pipe inventory and replacement over 10 years.

New Jersey is receiving $1 billion over five years through bipartisan federal infrastructure legislation, including $170 million earmarked for this year.

That’s just a fraction of the estimated $30 billion in new pipes, equipment and other upgrades the state needs.

Federal funds will be spread over time, with about $170 million planned for this year.

The exact destination of that money will depend in part on the outcome of scheduled stakeholder meetings, which are part of the state’s plan to manage the funds.

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