Senate Budget Committee Signs off on Revisions to Water Accountability Act

Greenstein heard information about police PT tests and women.

The Senate Budget Committee this afternoon animously passed a Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 647 Senators Linda Greenstein and Troy Singleton), which would revise the cybersecurity, asset management, and related reporting requirements in the “Water Quality Accountability Act” (WQAA), and require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to adopt rules implementing the WQAA.

“New Jersey has far too many water problems, whether it is PFOAs, chlorpyrifos, cyanobacteria in our reservoirs, or lead. This bill is important because it will help to address the state’s crumbling water infrastructure. For too long, New Jersey has failed to adequately protect its drinking water and is putting the public at risk. This legislation will require DEP to adopt rules implementing the Water Quality Accountability Act. It will also require the DEP to conduct an assessment of the data every three years, to make sure that problems with our water infrastructure are fixed before they get worse,”  said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Requiring more detailed reports and updating the data will help build pressure and support to take care of existing problems.”

The WQAA currently requires water purveyors to develop cybersecurity programs.  The committee substitute would require water purveyors to update their cybersecurity programs to meet new requirements within 120 days after its effective date.  These new requirements include updating cybersecurity programs to apply to all of the public water system’s industrial control systems, reasonably conforming these programs to the most recent version of certain industry-recognized cybersecurity frameworks, and annually certifying compliance with these requirements.  The committee substitute also would require water purveyors, beginning 90 days after its effective date, to immediately report to the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell certain cybersecurity incidents.  The committee substitute also would delete the exemption for water purveyors that do not have an internet-connected control system.

The WQAA currently requires water purveyors, as part of their asset management plans, to develop a water main renewal program designed to achieve a 150-year replacement cycle, or other appropriate replacement cycle as determined by a detailed engineering analysis.  The committee substitute would specify that water main renewal programs have to be designed to achieve a 150-year or shorter replacement cycle.  Additionally, the committee substitute would require each water purveyor, within one year after its effective date and every three years thereafter, to submit to the DEP a more detailed report based on its asset management plan.  The report would identify: (1) the infrastructure improvements completed in the past three years and the cost of those improvements; (2) the infrastructure improvements planned to be undertaken in the next three years and the estimated cost of those improvements; and (3) the infrastructure improvements that will be required over the next 10 years and the estimated cost of those improvements.  The committee substitute also would require a water purveyor to provide, upon request, a copy of its asset management plan to the DEP, the BPU, or the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs.

The committee substitute would further require water purveyors, within 18 months after its effective date, to revise their asset management plans to include: (1) a comprehensive inventory, mapping, and condition assessment of the public water system’s assets;         (2) level of service goals for the public water system; (3) a priority order in which the public water system’s assets will be repaired or replaced as part of the water purveyor’s asset management plan; (4) the life cycle costs of the public water system’s assets; and (5) a long-term funding strategy to implement the water purveyor’s asset management plan.  Additionally, water purveyors would be required to post the annual certification required by the WQAA to be posted on their Internet websites, if applicable.

Under the WQAA, the DEP is currently permitted, but not required, to adopt rules implementing the WQAA.  The committee substitute would require the DEP and the BPU to adopt such rules as are necessary to carry out the WQAA.  In addition to this general directive to adopt rules, the committee substitute specifically requires the DEP to adopt rules implementing certain new asset management plan requirements and establishing a schedule of civil penalties for violations of the WQAA, and clarifies that the BPU is to adopt its water purveyor cybersecurity program requirements as rules.

The committee substitute also would require the DEP to, within one year after its effective date and annually thereafter, to develop and publish on its Internet website a report card for each water purveyor in the State, indicating the water purveyor’s compliance with federal and State drinking water quality standards, its compliance with the requirements of the WQAA, and any other factors the DEP deems appropriate.  The report card would be designed to inform the public about the overall condition of a public water system, and the quality of water coming from the public water system.

 Additionally, the committee substitute would require the DEP, within 18 months after its effective date and every three years thereafter, to conduct an assessment of certain data submitted by water purveyors under the WQAA.  The assessment would include, but need not be limited to, an analysis of the total, Statewide estimated cost of infrastructure improvements to water purveyors required over the next 10 years.  The report would also have to include an assessment of the compliance of public water systems with the requirements of the WQAA.  The department would submit a report containing the results of each such assessment to the Governor and the Legislature.

“This legislation will help strengthen the Water Quality Accountability Act. This law calls for water companies to assess their systems and develop plans for replacing mains. These assessments are critical because it allows us to learn where to fix certain problems or what new laws or policies need to be implemented. This bill will make sure that water main renewable programs are designed with a 150-year or shorter replacement cycle. It also requires more detailed reports from water purveyors,” said Tittel. “New Jersey has a crisis with drinking water and crumbling infrastructure. This legislation will help keep our drinking water safe.”

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