The Essex County Improvement Authority (ECIA) will assist Newark in financing $120 million that will enable the city to expedite the replacement of lead water pipes connecting the water main to individual properties.
In a press conference on Monday, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. announced a partnership with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Gov. Phil Murphy intended to fund the complete replacement of lead pipes in the city’s water distribution system.
To date, the pipes at approximately 700 properties have been replaced. The $120 million in financing upfront will enable the city to award contracts more quickly – and to multiple contractors simultaneously – with the expectation the entire job could be completed within 24 to 30 months, instead of being prolonged over a decade.
DiVincenzo said that on Aug. 27, the Newark City Council, County Freeholders and the ECIA would vote on the issue.
There are about 18,000 properties where lead service pipes need to be replaced.
DiVincenzo said that water testing will continue, the use of filters is still being recommended and the chemical balance of the water would continue to be checked.
“The partnership we are entering into will provide Newark with the needed money to replace every lead water service pipe so this problem can be eliminated sooner rather than later,” DiVincenzo said.
“Although we are all working hard to address the near-term priorities of providing bottled water and implementing a corrosion control system, we are also clearly focusing on the long-term solutions, including replacing aging water infrastructure,” said Murphy. “This is a situation that none of us welcomed but which we are all committed to getting right for the city of Newark and especially for the residents who live here and rely upon access to clean water.”
The partnership we are entering into will provide Newark with the needed money to replace every lead water service pipe so this problem can be eliminated sooner rather than later.
– Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr.
DiVincenzo offered the use of the ECIA’s borrowing power to Baraka because of Essex County’s AAA rating. This would enable Newark to borrow funds at considerably lower interest rates without further burdening the City’s ability to fund future capital improvement projects.
“We are going to do this as swiftly as humanly possible, we are going to make sure that all of us are on the same page and that gets done as aggressively as we can, the city has been working around the clock with the governor’s office, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the filter manufacturer’s to determine the full scope of the situation and the best course of action,” said Baraka.
“Through our conservative budgeting practices and the recurring revenue we have been receiving, we earned a tripple A rating for the first time in Essex County’s history. This assistance would not have been possible five, 10 or 15 years ago because of the financial pressures we were experiencing at the County level,” said DiVincenzo.
The proposed agreement will be presented to the Essex County Board of Freeholders, Newark City Council and the ECIA Board of Commissioners for their review. Each body has scheduled special meetings on Aug. 27 to consider the proposal. If approved, the money should be available to Newark later this fall.
DiVincenzo also announced that the same terms of this loan program have been extended to the municipalities of Bloomfield, Belleville and Nutley, which purchase water from Newark for sections of their communities.