Rep. Smith Backs House Amendment for $22 Billion+ for Lead Removal
Would be possible source of funding for Trenton Water Works
Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who has been working to help alleviate the threat of lead in drinking water for Trenton Water Works (TWW) customers in Mercer County, supported an amendment on the House floor July 1 to significantly increase funding authorized for the federal Lead Reduction Grant Program to $4.5 billion annually for the next five years.
“Clean drinking water is the most basic of necessities,” Smith said. “It is the responsibility of the local, State and federal officials to do everything they can to ensure that all citizens have access to safe drinking water.
“I supported this amendment to get more federal assistance into programs in New Jersey and other states, which in turn can use the funds on infrastructure improvements to deliver safe water to local water systems like Trenton Water Works and their customers.”
Smith has been working with TWW, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pursue federal and state funding to assist with improving drinking water in Trenton and the surrounding communities of Hamilton, Lawrence, Ewing and Hopewell served by the City of Trenton’s water department.
The amendment Smith backed was approved and added to HR 2, the Moving Forward Act, which provides critical funding for much needed infrastructure projects such as the Gateway Project and others in New Jersey. In addition to the $22.5 billion to help with lead reduction in local water systems, HR 2 also authorizes approximately $20 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) over the next five years.
“Federal funds also flow from the EPA to states from the drinking water fund,” Smith said. “The increase in this program will enable the NJDEP to help more local projects aimed at updating and maintaining drinking water infrastructure.”
Six months ago, in December 2019, when Smith hosted a meeting in his Washington office with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and TWW officials, Wheeler pledged to support efforts to improve water quality for TWW customers, including replacement of lead service lines. Earlier in 2019, Smith met with Director of EPA Region II Peter Lopez, whose region includes New Jersey. Smith had previously met with NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe in early 2019, as well as other TWW, Trenton, EPA and NJDEP officials in support of TWW.
In 2018 Smith and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) met with Mayor Gusciora and TWW officials, toured their filtration plant and other facilities, and were briefed on TWW’s plan of action. In Washington, Smith met with federal funding experts at the Congressional Research Service regarding opportunities for TWW and its service area communities to effectuate meaningful lead abatement opportunities. According to news reports, proposed upgrades are on hold and under various stages of consideration due to legal disputes between city officials and the State of NJ.
The City of Trenton’s water department and its utility TWW serve the city, but also much of the neighboring town of Hamilton in Smith’s district, plus Ewing, Lawrence and Hopewell. Residents of all the towns served by TWW and in need of lead pipe replacement, are eligible for TWW’s discounted program to replace their lead service lines at a subsidized cost of $1,000, and about 5,500 homes are slated for upgrades through summer of 2021. To find out more about this program, visit www.twwleadprogram.com. TWW’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program hotline is (609) 989-3600.