Water, sewer systems took big blow from Sandy, state DEP chief says
TRENTON — Billions of dollars will be needed to replace New Jersey’s aging water and wastewater infrastructure, one whose vulnerabilities were further exposed by Hurricane Sandy in October, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said Tuesday.
Water infrastructure damage from Sandy exceeded $2.6 billion, and to some extent affected every county in New Jersey, he said.
“There were 94 wastewater treatment plants in 21 counties that had impacts because of the storm. Impacts included inadequate treatment, the need for fuel or generators due to power outages, and broken sewer mains due to operational issues,” Martin said at a hearing sponsored by the New Jersey Clean Water Council.
The council, which serves as an advisory board to the DEP, was gathering input as it crafts recommendations to the DEP on ways to improve the resiliency of the water system — a sprawling one that includes a number of investor-owned utilities and hundreds of municipal ones.
Hurricane Sandy may help spur support for infrastructure work that could cost $45 billion over 20 years, said Michele Siekerka, assistant DEP commissioner.
“Sandy offers us the opportunity to bring us more attention, some more financing and some more sense of urgency to those things that on Oct. 28 people said, ‘Those things are nice to have, but how are we going to get there?’” she said. “Now I think the sense of urgency says we must get there, and how are we going to do it?”
“Forty-five billion dollars is quite a daunting task,” she said. “We know our infrastructure is ailing. It’s aging,” she said. “The fact that they’re not in front of us. ... You see a bridge, you see a roadway when it has a pothole. You know when we know about the vulnerability of our water pipes? It’s when a major line in Monmouth County goes down and we have to repair it.”
Dennis Ciemniecki, vice chair of the American Water Works Association New Jersey Section, whose members include most public and investor-owned water utilities and professionals, said long-term infrastructure planning is necessary, particularly following Hurricane Sandy.
Future planning, design and construction need to mitigate impacts from future natural disasters and include flood protection in the rebuilding phase, he said.
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