Sherrill, Menendez: American Rescue Plan is Helping Address NJ’s Aging Water Infrastructure, Protect Residents
Bloomfield, NJ – Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez this week joined Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia to launch a bold, proactive effort to protect local residents from lead-contaminated drinking water using federal funding from the American Rescue Plan. They were joined by Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, Bloomfield Town Council members Jenny Mundell, Nicholas Joanow, Ted Gamble, and Rich Rockwell, Fire Chief Lou Venezia, Public Safety Officer Sam DeMaio, the Bloomfield police and fire departments, Chris Sturm of New Jersey Future, and members of the Department of Public Works.
Part of Bloomfield was impacted in 2019 by high lead levels in drinking water coming from the aging water system in the area. While those affected lines were replaced, now Mayor Venezia will utilize a portion of the estimated $26 million in direct, flexible state and local funding Bloomfield is receiving to begin replacing remaining lead service lines in the town within five years -- at no cost to the homeowner. Mayor Venezia’s efforts will serve as a model for other communities across New Jersey and the Northeast challenged by aging water infrastructure.
The $350 billion in direct, flexible assistance for state and local governments contained in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was modeled after Rep. Sherrill’s bipartisan SMART Act, which was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Menendez. It aims to help cover pandemic-related expenses and revenue losses caused by the economic downturn to help our communities maintain critical services and avoid layoffs of essential workers. In the final version of the American Rescue Plan, a provision was included to allow state and local governments to also use these funds to invest in water and sewer infrastructure—of which New Jersey has among the nation’s oldest—such as replacing lead pipes and modernizing treatment plants.
“We fought particularly hard to make sure direct state and local aid was included in the American Rescue Plan and this is exactly the reason why,” said Rep. Sherrill. “Our communities have borne the brunt of the impacts of this pandemic. This aid is helping them keep first responders on the job, ensuring they can provide essential services, and gives them the ability to pursue crucial projects for their residents that were put on hold. Here, Bloomfield is providing a perfect example of how the American Rescue Plan will ensure that we’re able to come out of this crisis and lay the groundwork for the future as we recover. We’ve been working with Mayor Venezia on this issue since our field hearing in 2019 and, now, thanks to the passage of the American Rescue Plan, we’re delivering the resources to make water infrastructure upgrades like this possible.”
“Bloomfield’s latest effort to replace aging lead water lines is just one example of how communities can use the state and local funding I secured in the American Rescue Plan to build back better,” said Sen. Menendez. “President Biden has been adamant that our goal as a country cannot just be to end this pandemic and then return to business as usual. We must build an economy that is more prosperous, more competitive and more equitable for all Americans. Upgrading water infrastructure and protecting our children from lead exposure is a matter of public health, of environmental safety, and of racial and economic justice. Ultimately, the American Rescue Plan is just a down payment on what must be an even bolder effort in the weeks and months ahead to bring our country’s woefully outdated infrastructure into the 21st century.”
Mayor Venezia plans to use $2 million in American Rescue Plan state and local funding to kick-start the five-year project. At an estimated cost of $8,000 per line, the federal funding would allow the town to replace lead lines leading to approximately 250 homes, or nearly 20% of the total project. The announcement was made outside a local residence as Department of Public Works crews replaced a lead service line leading to the home.
"Over the last several years, our administration has made major investments in the future of Bloomfield by updating our infrastructure. This includes continuing the process of replacing all lead service lines in our township at no cost to homeowners, paving roads and renovating our parks,” said Mayor Venezia. “Like many local governments, our tax revenue suffered immensely as a result of COVID-19. The American Rescue Plan will provide key funding for Bloomfield that will allow us to replace lead service lines, ramp up vaccinations and ensure that we do not have to lay off any of our first responders."
In its 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it will cost $8.6 billion to address New Jersey’s drinking water infrastructure needs.
"Communities can take on drinking water and wastewater projects now at no cost to ratepayers, thanks to the American Rescue Plan," said Chris Sturm, managing director of policy and water at New Jersey Future. "Replacing lead service lines is a smart investment that protects children's health and improves property values, and Bloomfield Township is showing us how this can be done."
Rep. Sherrill was a strong advocate for the American Rescue Plan and the inclusion of state and local funding in the bill. New Jersey will be receiving $10.2 billion in state and local funding from the American Rescue Plan to combat COVID-19, keep firefighters, police officers, teachers and other essential workers on the job, spur economic recovery, and make smart investments in broadband, water and sewer infrastructure. Because of her tireless advocacy, she was able to bring double the amount of direct state and local aid back to NJ-11 than was received under the CARES Act. NJ-11 will receive a total of $475 million distributed amongst all counties and municipalities.
Mayor Venezia also announced that Bloomfield will use some of the state and local funding it’s receiving to relieve millions in projected revenue losses, expand vaccinations, prevent tax hikes, and avert layoffs to police and firefighters.