It’s a problem that keeps getting deeper.

Much of New Jersey’s water infrastructure system is so old and corroded that contamination in many areas is getting worse and worse.

State Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, is pushing a plan to gradually overhaul the system without incurring more state debt.

He said because the pipes are so ancient in many parts of the state, we have lead contamination in a number of water systems and even in schools.

“It’s absolutely on the front burner of New Jersey’s concerns," he said.

“Most of our water infrastructure is over a hundred years old; the infrastructure is deteriorating badly, which is one of the reasons why we’re starting to have lead leaching.”

He said another reason to upgrade Jersey’s water system infrastructure is because we periodically have shortages.

“We should provide for the inter-connections between the various water system regions in the state because in droughts we frequently have a region of the state with an oversupply of water while another region will have an undersupply, and we can alleviate that with the proper investment.”

He pointed out while this issue must be addressed, everyone knows we have a serious debt problem in New Jersey so the best way to proceed is a pay-as-you-go approach.

“There would be a user fee. I hate to use the three-letter word 'tax,' but a user fee for every 1,000 gallons of water of 10 cents.”

Such a tax or fee would result in the average home in New Jersey paying $32 a year. It would generate about $150 million a year.

Smith said this kind of an approach will take decades to complete but it makes the most sense.

“We better start responsibly replacing and improving our water distribution systems so that we can continue to have clean water in the state," he said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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