Legislation Aimed at Improving Staffing, Public Awareness and Transparency
(TRENTON) – Assembly Telecommunications & Utilities Committee Chairman Wayne P. DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex) today announced a trio of bills to improve the operations of public water systems in order to better serve the customers of such systems. The measures were developed to address long-standing concerns regarding the delivery of service by Trenton Water Works to thousands of central jersey homes.
“Everyone deserves safe and clean drinking water regardless of where it comes from or who provides the service. These bills are the first steps along the path to restoring the public’s confidence that they do not need to be concerned about the delivery of water from a public service,” said DeAngelo.
Under the first measure (A-3352), specific guidelines would be put in place to notify municipal officials and the public in emergency cases or other incidences that cause the issuance of a boil water notice. The public water system would be required to notify the mayor and municipal clerk of every town serviced within one hour of the problem. The boil water advisory also would be posted on the water system’s website and social media accounts.
Customers affected by the boil water advisory would be notified within 24 hours. Within 90 days of the bill’s passage, water systems would contact customers to identify the preferred method of obtaining emergency notices such as via telephone, email, or text message.
In cases of violations of drinking water standards, the bill would require water systems to immediately call or email the governing body, municipal clerk, school district administrator, charter school and non-public school within the municipalities affected. Notification would include the name and level of the contaminants in the water: the location, dates of the test performed, and the results; and information about the actions that the customer could take to address the violation.
“In the rare occurrence that a boil water advisory needs to be issued or there is evidence of contamination, the public has a right to know immediately so that they can take whatever steps necessary to ensure that their health is not at risk,” DeAngelo said.
The second bill (A-3353) would require greater public awareness of the operation of public water system in order to improve accountability to customers. The measure would require certain public water systems to develop or maintain a website that includes a description of the service territory; the current and previous fiscal year budget; the annual audit for the current and previous fiscal year; contact information for individuals who provide day-to-day supervision or management of the system; relevant rules, regulations and policy statements; and a list of attorneys, advisors, consultants and other entities who receive compensation over $17,500 by the system.
Under this bill, public water systems would put public transparency requirements in line with other independent agencies and authorities that similarly perform public functions as established in a bill sponsored by DeAngelo on 2011.
“By providing this information for public review, customers can be assured that the money they pay to these publicly funded entities is used effectively and efficiently to provide the water service, maintain it and improve it for the public benefit,” said DeAngelo. “The law passed six years ago has gone a long way in improving the public’s trust about how their tax dollars are being used. This bill would do the same for public water system customers.”
Finally, Assembly Bill 3354 would allow a professional licensed engineer with a college degree or four-years of more of curriculum in engineering to be admitted to take any examination for a water supply or water treatment systems operator license.
“It has become evident that there is a great need for professionals with the education and proven ability imperative to operating complicated water systems. This bill would open the door for more individuals to become licensed and eventually perform a job that is critical to the delivery and purity of our water,” said DeAngelo.
The bills were introduced on February 12, 2018 and have been referred to the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, of which DeAngelo serves as the chairman.