Your tap water in Central New Jersey: Is it really safe to drink?
The mayor of Trenton agrees there are serious problems at Trenton Water Works and he says he’d be happy to work with the Department of Environmental Protection to make the necessary upgrades and repairs, but he’s dead-set against a complete state takeover.
During a news conference on Wednesday afternoon at the Trenton Water Works filtration plant on Route 29, Mayor Reed Gusciora blamed what he described as a “dysfunctional City Council” for ongoing issues at TWW.
Trenton Water Works, which serves the city of Trenton as well as parts of Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell and Lawrence townships, has a long history of safety issues, including elevated levels of parasites, contamination and purple-colored water flowing from taps.
Gusciora said because of political infighting, the City Council has not approved plans for a series of TWW fixes.
Lots of problems at Trenton Water Works
“We’re serious about replacing the reservoir, we get it that because of global warming there’s algae now, there was an issue with midges,” Gusciora said.
“There are 170 dead-end pipes, that’s where the water stagnates. We want to put flushers on the end of those 170 pipes.”
He said $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds can be used for that upgrade, so ratepayers and taxpayers would not face additional charges.
State Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, and her Assembly counterparts, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Anthony Verrelli, have held two recent meetings with the DEP and are calling for an immediate intervention to ensure the water system is safe.
Gusciora said other problems include a leaking roof, a non-functioning HVAC system, and Homeland Security officials are concerned about keeping the water supply in one open-air reservoir.
He noted there are plans to demolish a building on Prospect Street so a water tank can be installed, which would start the process of replacing the Trenton reservoir with a series of tanks.
Trenton welcomes help
He said to make sure all necessary steps are taken at Trenton Water Works to provide clean, safe drinking water, “I welcome any assistance from DEP, at the end of the day the job has to get done, and if Council is not allowing us to get the job done then DEP will help us do that.”
Gusciora pointed out that over the past four years, “water violations have been kept to a minimum, there have been hiccups, but they’re not the regular violations that came along.”
When he was asked if the water is safe he said, “I drink it every day and so do my cats and they’re doing very well.”
DEP to the rescue?
Following the news conference, state Environmental Commissioner Shawn LaTourette issued a statement saying: "DEP professionals will continue to work with the staff of Trenton Water Works by providing compliance assistance to help them meet these critical goals."
"t the end of September, the DEP’s Water Resource Management Division of Water Enforcement sent Trenton officials a 17-page Compliance Evaluation and Assistance Inspection letter, detailing a series of steps that are needed to “consistently and properly maintain and operate TWW in a manner that reliably produces safe drinking water that meets all requirements of the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act.”
The letter also states 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.”
While no specific DEP action has been specified so far, it is believed the Department could soon announce the formation of a partnership that would give state environmental officials administrative oversight of Trenton Water Works, allowing them to mandate a series of corrective actions to improve the operation of TWW.