Several Passaic County municipalities will likely remain under a boil water advisory until the end of the month, weeks after Ida drenched northern New Jersey with up to 10 inches of rain.

Paterson, Passaic, Woodland Park and parts of Clifton remain under the advisory  issued by the Passaic Valley Water Commission because of the unprecedented runoff from the heavy rain that brought coliform bacteria into the New Street Reservoir in Woodland Park.

How long will it take to pump out the contaminated water?

Executive Director Louis Amodio told New Jersey 101.5 the commission has a two-part plan approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection to remove 52 million gallons of contaminated water from the reservoir and then to flush the entire system.

"As we're taking the water out of the reservoir we're pumping water into the reservoir. We're pumping the bad water out and pumping in clean water. We're doing this daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. We have four pumps running continuously," Amodio said.

That should be complete by Friday and the water will be tested over the weekend and reports filed with the DEP. Once the water quality is established the flushing phase can begin before the reservoir is put back back online.

"The flushing program we're estimating ... to be one to two weeks and that will be 24 hours a day, seven days a week where we will continuously flush the water mains in the system that are affected," Amodio said. "And that's something that needs to be done in order to make sure there's no contamination in those pipes."

This situation could have been avoided

Amodio said the reservoir was so badly affected by the rain because it is one of six remaining open-air reservoirs in the United States, down from 700 in 2009.  Five are in New Jersey an three belong to the PWC. The utility has unsuccessfully been trying to encapsulate them for 12 years.

"We've been met by public opposition from pockets of groups in the Paterson area. Unfortunately, if the project was able to continue from its inception we would not be in this predicament today," Amodio said.

Drinking water from the New Street Reservoir is first processed at a water treatment plant and then released to a body of water open to the elements, Amodio said. If the reservoir had been encapsulated there would likely have been no need for a boil water advisory.

"There are geese and duck and deer and water run off and anything else that you can imagine in the air that goes into that reservoir. When people open their tap in their homes, that's the water that they get," Amodio said.

The affected communities are providing free bottled water at several locations listed on the PWC website. City representatives are going door to door to make sure residents are aware of the availability of the water and about the advisory.

Boil water instructions (State of New Jersey)

According to the PWC:

  • Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking; preparing foods; mixing baby formula, food, juices or drinks; washing vegetables and fruit; cooking; making ice; brushing teeth; drinking water for pets and washing dishes until further notice.
  • Bring all water to a rolling boil for one minute, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water.
  • Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water. Ice or any beverages prepared with tap water after 9/1/2021 should be discarded.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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