State orders partial oversight of struggling Trenton Water Works

by Dana DiFilippo, New Jersey Monitor

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced Wednesday it will form a team to oversee the long-troubled Trenton Water Works, embedding an independent adviser within the city-owned utility to examine operations and recommend ways to bring it into compliance.

The department has repeatedly cited the 200-year-old utility in recent years for failing to ensure the safety of the 29 million gallons of water it delivers daily to 200,000 residents of Trenton and four neighboring townships — Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and Lawrence.

The utility has failed to monitor water quality, invest in required maintenance and capital needs, maintain basic treatment processes, and employ adequately trained staff, violations show.

Under the order announced Wednesday, the state will create a team of experts to determine immediate capital needs and ways to improve routine operations and maintenance. An embedded “adviser” will make recommendations to address all of the utility’s shortcomings.

A spokesman for the governor’s office didn’t respond to questions about who the adviser will be, who will comprise the team or the expected cost of the oversight plan.

The announcement comes two weeks after mayors of the suburbs served by the utility called for a state takeover and two years after the state sued the city and utility for failing to pay for mandated upgrades.

A state lawmaker recently revived long-stalled legislation that would establish an oversight commission to take control of the utility and give state officials and suburban leaders a voice in its management.

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