TRENTON, NJ -- The NJ Assembly passed legislation May 26 to create a task force to review the state’s drinking water sources. It cleared the Assembly in a 64-0 vote.

The legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Mila Jasey, Tim Eustace and Jamel Holley, who noted the water crisis in Flint, Michigan has raised concerns across the country about the water filtration process and the risk of contaminates in the water system, especially lead.

“The situation in Flint Michigan should be a lesson to us all to ensure protection of our water supply,” said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “This should be a priority for New Jersey as well. A task force can help us identify the areas in need of strengthening in regards to the state’s water supply.

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“This is critically important to New Jersey’s families,” said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “A task force will allow us to assess the current infrastructure and understand what needs to be done to ensure protection of our water supply.”

“Just like roads and railways, our water infrastructure needs to be assessed, repaired or updated,” said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The task force will first learn the extent of what needs to be done and then inform us of where we must begin to correct the ailing system. This panel will be an essential part of the process to protect New Jersey’s water infrastructure.”

“An aging water infrastructure means New Jersey’s communities will become more and more vulnerable to flooding, contamination or even loss of power during severe storms,” said Holley (D-Union). “We need to know the good and bad pertaining to the state’s water system before we can take the necessary steps to repair it. This legislation helps us do that.”

In the legislation, the sponsors also note that New Jersey has history of being proactive in this area and has enacted numerous statutes aimed at protecting the state’s water supply. However, an aging infrastructure and the deterioration of the physical assets of water supply systems present serious risks to the integrity of drinking water and to the environment.

The concurrent resolution (ACR-161) establishes the “Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure” to study and make recommendations concerning issues related to drinking water infrastructure in New Jersey. The task force is charged with identifying both short-term and long-term solutions and making recommendations to address the quality and condition of drinking water infrastructure in the state.

In conducting its business, the task force is directed to call upon the Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, the Division of Water in the Board of Public Utilities and representatives of investor-owned and government-owned water utilities to offer their respective expertise and experience concerning the condition of the state’s drinking water infrastructure, and what improvements are necessary to ensure a safe drinking water supply.

The task force is to be composed of six members: three members of the Senate appointed by the Senate President, and three members of the General Assembly appointed by the Speaker.

Within six months after the date the task force organizes, it is directed to prepare and submit a report containing its findings and recommendations, including any proposals for legislation and other appropriate legislative or regulatory action.

The concurrent resolution was approved by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on May 3 and now awaits further consideration in the Senate.