By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern
SOUTH JERSEY – The New Jersey Environmental Protection Commissioner (NJDEP) Shawn M. LaTouretter announced the launch of NJ-TAP (New Jersey Technical Assistance Program) recently. Through the NJ-TAP initiative, residents in disadvantaged or overburdened communities will receive enhanced technical help for safe and reliable drinking water.
NJ-TAP focuses on identifying lead service lines, garnering state and federal funding for water quality improvement projects, and developing asset management and capital improvement plans.
”New Jersey’s communities face many drinking water challenges, from lead to PFAS to aging pipes and older treatment plants,“ Commissioner LaTourette said. “That’s why we are launching NJ-TAP to offer DEP’s resources and technical expertise to help water systems deliver on the promise of safe and reliable drinking water for everyone.”
NJ-TAP’s initiative follows the $1 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by President Biden in November 2021, funding to enhance drinking water quality and protect state waterways. The investment also replaces outdated lead service lines, modernizes water infrastructure, and increases public health safety with cleaner, drinker water, which concerns the NJ-TAP initiative.
The DEP, and other officials, also view improving water systems as a potential opportunity to increase the job market. ”NJ-TAP will also serve as a catalyst to creating good-paying jobs for New Jersey residents. Repairing and modernizing our water systems is not only an investment in infrastructure. It is also an investment in our workforce, one that helps grow the economy, provide for families, and strengthens communities,” said Mike Hellstrom, Vice President and Eastern Regional Manager for the Laborer’s International Union of North America.
The three avenues of focus for NJ-TAP include lead assistance, general (non-lead) assistance, and community engagement and outreach assistance.
According to the New Jersey State Government, lead often gets into waterways through the water delivery system when it leaches from lead pipes, household fixtures containing lead, or lead solder. In an effort to address the problem, NJ-TAP’s lead assistance intends to help those water systems comply with state law.
According to the NJDEP, state law requires water systems to develop service line inventories and create a replacement plan for identified lead service lines. Furthermore, the lead assistance program will help systems apply for a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) loan, which provides funding for drinking water projects.
”We know that there is no safe level of exposure to lead and that, unfortunately, historically underserved communities have borne the burden of lead in drinking water infrastructure for too long,“ said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia.
NJ-TAP’s general (non-lead) assistance program also helps water systems. Through evaluations of technical, managerial, and financial capacity, this program aims to develop an Asset Management Plan and a Capital Improvement Plan and assist in applying for DWSRF loans. The difference between the general (non-lead) and lead assistance programs is that water systems in this category have Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) issues and general state Safe Drinking Water Act compliance issues.
Lastly, community engagement and outreach assistance help the DEP garner resources that water systems and local governments can utilize for community outreach. Community engagement and outreach assistance also helps water systems engage with communities to encourage the water infrastructure upgrades residents will see.
The water system participants already taking advantage of this assistance include Freehold Borough Water Department, the Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority, Gloucester City Water Department, Westville Water Department, and Salem Water Department.
Water system representatives who believe they would benefit from this initiative should contact the NJDEP at https://www.nj.gov/dep/wiip/request.html.
”I strongly encourage water systems to reach out to the DEP and take advantage of this invaluable assistance, which builds upon the Murphy Administration’s commitment to upgrading infrastructure and providing safe drinking water through the state’s innovative Water Infrastructure Investment Plan,“ Commissioner LaTourette added.
To learn more about NJ-TAP, visit https://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2023/23_0018.htm.
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