Suburbs urge NJ takeover of Trenton utility after repeated water problems
After years of failure to meet safe drinking water requirements — a group of elected officials have called for the state to take over operation of the water utility that serves five Mercer County communities.
Trenton Water Works supplies 29 million gallons of drinking water daily to more than 200,000 people, including residents of Trenton, Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and Lawrence Township.
A lawsuit was filed by the state two years ago against the City of Trenton and the water utility — and just this week, the Department of Environmental Protection sent a letter about continued shortcomings in “maintenance and operational needs crucial to the protection of public health.”
While the letter said that state officials were "disturbed by the current City Council's continuing failures or refusals to authorize resolutions necessary to advance critical capital improvements,” no additional action was taken at this point — which some neighboring mayors want to change.
Problems with the water from Trenton Water Works
Before the state's lawsuit, the water utility had accumulated a years-long history of failed communication in the city of Trenton and neighboring communities — as well as occasional issues with contamination, discoloration, boil water advisories.
“Since 2012, the Department has identified at least 40 incidents — including 18 in the past five years, where TWW’s treatment plant was shut down — for reasons including brownouts, treatment failures and high turbidity in the Delaware River,” according to the Sept. 27 letter from the DEP’s Division of Water Enforcement.
The DEP has now been urged to take over direct supervision and operation of Trenton Water Works, in a joint release from Hopewell Township Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning, Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin, Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann and Lawrence Township Mayor John Ryan.
Senator Linda Greenstein and Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Dan Benson — all Democrats from the 14th Legislative district — have also signed the letter, as have Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes and Mercer County Board of County Commissioners Chair Nina Melker.
Failures cited by the officials include unfilled positions that are critical to running the treatment plant and failure to cover the Pennington Avenue Reservoir. That project was denied funding by the Trenton City Council months after the state’s 2020 lawsuit was filed.
The reservoir was supposed to be decommissioned by this summer — which state regulators have voiced concern will not happen, according to this week's letter.
In 2020, TWW also kicked off a massive service line replacement program designed to make the water safer.
Nearly 30% of the utility's lead service lines have been replaced, according to its website — as TWW continues to draw up plans to remove all remaining LSLs by 2031, as required under state law.
With previous reporting by David Matthau