Last night, Council President McBride, Councilwoman Vaughn, and Councilman Rodriguez blocked the efforts of Trenton Water Works (TWW) to replace lead service lines throughout our regional service area. TWW has made great strides in its initial phases of lead service line replacement and this $15 million bond ordinance was needed for the third phase scheduled to start later this year. In addition, the third phase would have triggered a program from the N.J. Infrastructure Bank that would have given 50 percent forgiveness on the bonds. The ordinance fell one vote shy of the five needed to pass, which will effectively freeze the service line program for the near future.
The council members who voted against the ordinance have effectively told their constituents as well as customers in other service municipalities that they do not care if lead is removed from their water. The fact remains, TWW is under a Consent Order with the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Trenton faces a lawsuit by NJDEP as well as other service municipalities that TWW is not working fast enough to adhere to environmental standards as well as service line replacement. The three council members who voted against the ordinance have made that worse.
The lack of foresight is staggering. Council’s failure to approve this ordinance jeopardizes our plans to remove all lead services from the TWW system within the next six years. The well-established threat of lead in drinking water did not move the council members who voted against this proposal. Neither did the fact that half of $15 million proposal would have been forgiven under a state grant, which is a tremendous benefit for our city’s strained budget.
So long as homeowners have galvanized lead service lines running to their homes, they could be affected by lead-tainted water. It was time for City Council to take the appropriate action to protect its constituents and TWW service area consumers from these environmental hazards. Blocking this ordinance is nothing less than gross malfeasance.
Council members voting in the affirmative for the bonds were City Council Vice President Marge Caldwell-Wilson and Councilmen Jerell Blakely, Joe Harrison and George Muschal.