Gov. Phil Murphy ordered water providers to suspend shut-offs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities are asking every water system, private or public, including those operated by municipal governments to commit to a suspension of any water shut-offs for reasons of non-payment until the outbreak of COVID-19 has subsided.
“The [Department] of Community Affairs and [Department of] Environmental Protection and Board of Public Utilities sent a letter to all municipal utilities to voluntarily suspend all water shut-offs during this emergency,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday afternoon at a press conference.
“All private utility providers have already suspended all water shutoffs. If you do not voluntarily suspend shutoffs, I will order you to suspend shutoffs,” Murphy said. “No New Jerseyan should fear losing their access to water” during this time.
Murphy asked that every water system send theDEP its commitment via email to KeepWaterOn@dep.nj.gov.
The Murphy Administration thanked water providers, including the Newark Water Department, Trenton Water Works, New Jersey American Water and Suez, that have already publicly made this commitment.
“Water utilities have until [Wednesday] to confirm with the [Department of Environmental Protection] that they are taking this step,” Murphy said.
“All of us appreciate that water providers are working swiftly to ensure that their staffs remain healthy and that their systems are operational during this public health emergency,” Murphy said.
“Please continue to work with DEP’s Division of Water Supply & Geoscience and Division of Water Compliance & Enforcement and frequently consult the guidance and resources that are being posted on their websites.”
Brendon Shank, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, told NJBIZ that the department had received commitments from water utilities that serve 92 percent of New Jersey residents as of Wednesday at 4:50 p.m.
“We are working to secure the remaining 8 percent,” Shank said. “Nobody has refused when asked to maintain water service.”
Cheryl Norton is president of New Jersey American Water, which serves 2.8 million people in New Jersey—one out of three residents. The state’s largest water and wastewater service provider takes its responsibility of providing this life-sustaining service very seriously.
“At New Jersey American Water, the health and safety of our customers, communities and employees is our top priority,” Norton told NJBIZ. “New Jersey American Water has activated our business continuity plan to strengthen our ability to provide reliable, high-quality service to our customers, continue to deliver water and wastewater services that meets all federal and state standards, and protect our employees and customers during this public health crisis.”
“Given the importance of personal hygiene in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, we suspended billing-related service shutoffs, and we turned water service back on for customers who were previously shutoff prior to March 12 for non-payment,” Norton said. “This includes customers whose water service was turned off for non-payment of sewer service, even if New Jersey American Water is not the sewer service provider.
“We also suspended late fees until further notice and we are working with customers who are experiencing financial hardships by offering payment arrangements and information about our H2O Help to Others low-income assistance program,” she added.
New Jersey American Water said it is continuously evaluating the situation and latest developments to determine how the company can adopt and amend measures, as necessary, to support its customers, the communities it serves and its employees.