September 28, 2022
HAMILTON – TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Hamilton Mayor Martin, State Senator Greenstein, Assemblymen DeAngelo, and Benson, Mercer County Executive Hughes, Mercer County Board of County Commissioners Chair Nina Melker, Ewing Mayor Steinmann, Hopewell Township Mayor Peters-Manning, and Lawrence Township Mayor John Ryan are joining together to call on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to take over direct supervision and operation of Trenton Water Works (TWW) after years of failure to comply with safe drinking water obligations.
TWW supplies approximately 29 million gallons of drinking water daily to more than 200,000 people, including residents of Trenton and four neighboring municipalities – Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and Lawrence Townships.
In 2020, the Attorney General and DEP filed a lawsuit against TWW, which the municipalities served by the water utility joined, seeking to compel the City of Trenton and the water utility to take the necessary actions after failing to comply with Administrative Consent Orders to provide safe drinking water. These failures include but are not limited to filling vacancies critical to running the treatment plant and the covering of the Pennington Reservoir, which funding for was denied by the Trenton City Council months after the lawsuit was filed. This week, the NJDEP sent the City and TWW a letter again citing failure to comply with these orders and stating that the DEP is “disturbed by the current City Council’s continuing failures or refusals to authorize resolutions necessary to advance critical capital improvements and ensure that ordinary maintenance and operational needs crucial to the protection of public health are met.”
“The residents of Hamilton have suffered far too long due to the failures of Trenton Water Works and left us with absolutely no confidence in their ability to operate the utility,” said Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin. “The Trenton City Council’s refusal to authorize public safety projects is putting people’s lives in danger and has prevented TWW’s ability to provide safe and clean drinking water. I call on the Governor and the State of New Jersey to immediately place TWW under direct state control to end the years of gross incompetence.”
“The most recent inspection report from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection validates the charge that, time and time again, the residents of this region have been failed by the Trenton City Council and Trenton Water Works,” said Senator Linda R. Greenstein. “Despite the actions of some to try and resolve these long-standing issues, it is readily apparent that a change in leadership is desperately needed. I call upon the State of New Jersey and NJDEP to immediately take all steps necessary to establish state control of Trenton Water Works, to ensure the health and safety of our residents remain top priority.”
“We shouldn’t wait for another disaster before taking action, the safety of our residents must come first,” said Assemblyman Dan Benson. “The NJDEP letter shows that the current operation of Trenton Water Works is unacceptable, it’s time for action,” added Benson.
“Trenton City Council has showed us time and again that they are not interested in bringing Trenton Water Works up to the standards set up by the Department of Environmental Protection,” stated Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo. “At this point, the gross negligence that they have shown has led to an increased risk of waterborne pathogens that threaten the safety of not just Trenton but also the neighboring towns that it serves. I cannot, in good conscience, watch as this continues to escalate. That is why I believe that the control and maintenance of Trenton Water Works should be given to the State so that they can properly bring Trenton Water Works up to the standards of the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act.
“Access to safe drinking water and a well-functioning water system is not an unreasonable expectation by the Mercer County residents who have no alternative to the city-operated Trenton Water Works,” said Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes. “While I am encouraged by Mayor Reed Gusciora’s determination to address the ongoing compliance issues and substandard water quality noted by the NJDEP, I condemn the irresponsibility and recklessness of the City Council for its egregious neglect of the water system, its disregard for the directives set forth by the NJDEP and the injustices it has placed on communities of color and on all Trenton Water Works customers.”
“The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s latest Compliance Evaluation and Assistance Inspection dated September 27, 2022, of Trenton Water Works, is extremely disturbing and concerning,” stated Mercer County Board of County Commissioners Chair Nina Melker.” It is now evident that an intervention is needed at a state level to ensure that Trenton Water Works can fulfill their obligation to provide safe and clean drinking water to the residents throughout Mercer County in their service designation.”
“The findings in this report confirm why Ewing joined with its neighbors Lawrence and Hamilton to protect its citizens from this failing authority,” said Ewing Township Mayor Bert Steinmann. “ It is time for legislation that will provide a meaningful remedy to the suburban ratepayers being held hostage to the Trenton City Council’s intransigence. On behalf of the citizens of Ewing, we implore DEP to act immediately to compel TWW to correct these deficiencies and ensure the safety of the water provided by TWW to its more than 200,000 consumers.”
“Residents deserve safe drinking water. We are deeply disturbed by DEP’s findings regarding the lack of progress on long-term projects necessary to keep the residents of Hopewell Township and Mercer County safe,” said Hopewell Township Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning. “Hopewell Township has appreciated our working relationship with the professional staff at Trenton Water Works. However, change is necessary,” continued Peters-Manning.
“On behalf of the Trenton Water Works customers within Lawrence Township, it is time for the operations of the water utility to be taken from the City of Trenton,” stated Lawrence Township Mayor John Ryan. “For far too long, the customers of TWW have lived with the fear, and at times reality, that the water they drink and use daily is unsafe. The report from the NJDEP dated September 27, 2022, demonstrates that the City of Trenton cannot meet the needs of its water utility customers by producing clean and safe water. We stand with the other municipalities fighting for their residents’ health and safety. We must do better.”
Mayor Gusciora Responds to State and Local Concerns Regarding TWW
TRENTON, NJ – Mayor Reed Gusciora issued the following statement today regarding progress made at Trenton Water Works (TWW), compliance with State agreements, and attempts by state and local officials to enact a “major shakeup” at the City-owned utility.
“I share the concerns expressed by area officials that we want safe drinking water for our constituents. However, the comments made by those elected officials do not recognize the substantial progress made at Trenton Water Works over the last four years. I wholeheartedly agree that if the Trenton City Council had done their job, we would not find ourselves in this position. They voted down critical projects including decommissioning the reservoir, replacing water mains, lead remediation, heavy equipment, facility upgrades, chemical purchases, and debt service. Council leaders even engaged a court battle to stop executive action in support of various water quality improvements at TWW.
In addition, one of the main items I ran on was improving Trenton Water Works. In 2019, we developed a $405-million, six-year capital plan to undertake critical projects within its central pumping station, water-filtration plant, and distribution system. These projects are designed to maintain high water quality and make the 163-year-old public water system more resilient.
Despite the efforts of City Council to undermine TWW as a utility of the City of Trenton, I welcome working in tandem with the State DEP to resolve any outstanding issues and ensure safe drinking water for our consumers for years to come. In that vein, I will announce shortly our proposed plan to address the issues raised by the DEP and to give comfort to our ratepayers and residents by showing demonstrative improvements in our water delivery system.”
Purchased by the City of Trenton in 1859, Trenton Water Works is one of the oldest and largest publicly owned water systems in the United States. TWW supplies approximately 28 million gallons of water per day to a quarter-million consumers in a five-municipality service area comprised of Trenton, Ewing Township, parts of Hamilton Township, Lawrence Township, and Hopewell Township.
TWW operates a 60-million-gallon water-filtration plant and water-distribution system that consists of a 100-million-gallon reservoir, 683 miles of water mains, three pump stations, nearly 8,000 valves, 3,517 fire hydrants, and six interconnections between TWW and other water suppliers. TWW serves approximately 63,000 metered customers.
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