DeAngelo, Benson Bill Package to Improve Public Water System Operations Approved by Assembly Panel
(TRENTON) The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo and Daniel Benson (Both D- Mercer and Middlesex) to address operational concerns in the state's public water systems by requiring additional notifications of boil water advisories and enabling professional engineers to take operator licensing exams for water supply and wastewater treatment. The committee also received testimony from the community leaders and stakeholders concerned about recent water contamination issues and operation methods of public water systems. "We need to ensure that there is a system in place to have the best qualified professionals performing critical functions and to encourage public awareness of the operations funded by ratepayers," said DeAngelo. "Most importantly, we need to notify residents quickly so that they can take needed action to protect their families from possible contamination." "Families should never be concerned about water contamination or water quality. If there is a problem, residents and local officials should receive prompt notifications of boil water advisories so they may take appropriate action to protect their families," said Benson. "Water system operations must maintain the highest quality standards, anything less is unacceptable." In a morning meeting, the committee approved the following bills -both sponsored by DeAngelo and Benson: · A-3352- Requires public water systems to notify the mayor and municipal clerk of each municipality that receives water from the public water system and the affected customers when a boil water notice is in effect. This notice is in addition to any other notice required by state or federal law. · A-3353- Supplements the "Water Quality Accountability Act," which imposes certain testing, reporting, management, and infrastructure investment requirements on certain water purveyors, i.e., public water systems with more than 500 service connections. · A-3354- Amends the "Water Supply and Wastewater Operators' Licensing Act" to permit professionals engineers to take the water supply and wastewater treatment systems operator licensing examination without meeting additional experience or course requirements. The engineer will be required to have a college degree to be eligible. Assemblyman Benson is also sponsor of legislation (A-2420) --also approved by the Assembly committee-- that would require the owner or operator of a public water system to reimburse a residential customer at the request of the municipality in which the customer resides, for the cost of testing at the residence by a laboratory certified by the Department of Environmental Protection. The testing must be necessitated by the exceedance of a maximum contaminant level, or action level, as appropriate, of a federal or state drinking water standard by the public water system. "Testing is sometimes necessary at a residence to ensure the quality of the drinking water is safe," added Benson. "It is up to the municipality and the public water systems to protect water quality in every home. Residents should not have to pay the cost of these tests when their water provider fails them." Each bill can now be considered for a floor vote by the full Assembly.