A report released earlier this year by the U.S. Geological Survey claims that almost half of all drinking water in the U.S. is contaminated and contains potentially toxic chemicals–including some cities in New Jersey.
The report highlighted that synthetic compounds known as polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) routinely contaminate all drinking water to some degree in major cities and municipalities–including some in New Jersey. PFAs are chemicals that remain in the body for years and generally do not disintegrate in the environment, based on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The chemical reportedly has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, hypertension, and congenital disabilities.
Additionally, in March, the EPA proposed a first-of-its-kind initiative–federal drinking water limits on specific PFAs. However, the federal EPA proposal continues to languish in Congress, with a final decision not expected until next year.
In New Jersey, the issue of unsafe drinking water has been an ongoing issue for years–stretching back at least 20 years–with the cities of Newark, Trenton, and Camden, at the center of toxic drinking water woes. For example, outdated infrastructure, lead pipes, and sub-par water filtration systems led to several lawsuits against Newark for allowing hazardous drinking water to flow throughout the city. At one point, the toxic water quality in the Brick City was compared to the highly publicized water crisis in Flint, MI.
In 2014, in a cost-cutting effort, state officials in Michigan launched a scheme that bypassed safe water filtering mechanisms in the primarily Black city of Flint. The illicit move led to the sickness and deaths of dozens of people in Flint due to the constant exposure to contaminated water. Several state politicos and others were indicted and convicted. Additionally, the state was ordered to pay millions in fines and penalties to residents. Similarly, due to the lawsuits, public outrage, and extensive media coverage in Newark, officials repaired and replaced thousands of lead pipes throughout the city.
And in Trenton, the state took over the management of Trenton Water Works (TWW) in October. The company is the water service provider for the Capital City and is at the center of numerous complaints for years of poor customer service, sloppy and non-compliant safe drinking water measures, and questionable activities of some employees. “I will never drink the tap water in Trenton,” one resident posted.
Lastly, earlier this year, New Jersey State Representative Chris Smith (R-Manchester) announced the state would receive about $95 million in federal funds to improve and enhance local water projects across the state. In a press release, Smith said, “Clean water is an essential necessity of everyday life–not a luxury.Our towns and local governments are stretched thin working to meet multiple needs, and this funding will help.”
To read the U.S. Geological Survey, visit:
NJ Urban News Editor was awarded a fellowship from the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources (IJNR) to write about environmental issues.