(The Center Square) – Legislation aimed at limiting lead exposure in New Jersey could result in a multibillion dollar replacement of water pipes across the state.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday signed into law three bills, touting the legislation as “the most aggressive action in the nation to reduce lead-based paint exposure in our homes and communities,” according to a news release. It “advances New Jersey as a national leader in lead poisoning prevention,” the governor added.
The first measure, A-5343/S-S3398, requires public community water systems to inventory and replace lead service lines within 10 years. According to a June Office of Legislative Services (OLS) estimate, the inventory could cost local governments roughly $29 million and the state government $50,000, while replacement could cost more than $2.6 billion over 10 years.
The measure allows community water systems to recoup costs “through an increase in rates paid by water system customers,” OLS said.
A second bill, S-1147/A-1372, appropriates $3.9 million to establish a lead-based paint hazard education program. It requires lead paint inspections of residential rental properties, including during tenant turnover.
The third piece, A-5407/S-3459, removes restrictions on special assessments and bond issuances to replace residential lead service lines. It also revises budgetary requirements for some water system operators.
According to a March OLS fiscal estimate, the bill will result in annual “indeterminate increases” of state and local government spending.
“These new laws represent a sea change in how a state can combat lead poisoning,” Peter Chen, a senior policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective, said in a news release. “New Jersey is now the first state in the country with a hard target to eliminate lead service lines in ten years, as well as a funding mechanism to finance that investment.”