TRENTON —The embattled Trenton Water Works, which has faced years of criticism for contaminated and discolored water, has reached an agreement with state regulators to turn around its operation.

Customers of Trenton Water Works, which serves Trenton, Hamilton, Lawrence, and Hopewell townships, have experienced everything from unsafe chemical levels, to water appearing pink or purple.

Last month, the state Department of Environmental Protection sent the utility a letter regarding "continued failure to take the steps necessary" to provide safe water for the utility's customers.

The agreement, which was announced Wednesday, sets a timeline to bring the utility into compliance with regulations. The timeline will include addressing shortages in the utility's staffing, implementing an emergency response plan for water service problems, and working to "minimize disruptions to the treatment plant, particularly to its Delaware River intake system."

"The DEP and the city share the same goal: Providing the customers of Trenton Water Works with a safe and reliable supply of drinking water," Acting DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said.

A meeting was held on Wednesday at Trenton City Hall with the mayors and business administrators from the municipalities serviced by the utility in order to discuss how the utility will address consumer complaints.

Trenton Mayor Eric E. Jackson said the agreement and meeting came after "weeks of candid dialogue between the DEP and my administration."

Jackson called the agreement a reflection of "a new, collaborative partnership that leverages all of ours and the state's resources to ensure the common goal of delivery of water in our distribution system according to state and federal standards."

Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede who has been a longtime critic of Trenton Water Works, said she was glad to see progress but will keep a close eye on what comes from the agreement. Yaede said she convened the first meeting to express her concerns with her neighboring mayors back in 2013, which she said made Wednesday's agreement "not timely enough."

The Hamilton mayor said after years of discussions and negotiations, she believes "pressure from local municipalities has provided a spotlight onto this issue that was long overdue."

In addition to the infrastructure and hiring corrections, Yaede said she believes notification needs to be improved. While current law allows between six and 25 hours for residents to be notified of any potential issues, Yaede said there should be only a one-hour window to alert customers about a problem with their water.

Now that the agreement has been signed, Yaede said the utility and mayors will meet again in 45 days.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com

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