RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces New $3.4M Federal Investment for Fair Lawn to Improve Water Treatment

Protect Families from Forever Chemicals and Make Life More Affordable. Builds on Gottheimer’s Clean Water Action Plan.

 

Above: Gottheimer in Fair Lawn to announce new federal investment for water treatment facilities.

FAIR LAWN, NJ — Today, January 13, 2023, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) joined with local leaders and officials from Fair Lawn’s Water Department to announce a new $3.4 million federal investment clawed back from Washington to Fair Lawn for new and improved water treatment. This investment will help keep Fair Lawn water clean by addressing three wells that are currently offline from increased levels of lead and forever chemicals known as PFAS. Because the Borough is now operating with fewer wells, Fair Lawn has been forced to purchase water from private companies which can increase utility bills for families.

Once these wells reach acceptable standards, they can be put back online and Fair Lawn will have more control of their own water supply — helping make life safer and more affordable for families. This new federal investment will help ensure that families and small businesses in Fair Lawn have access to clean water for decades to come.

Working with the EPA, Gottheimer clawed back $19.5 million to Fair Lawn in 2018 for expanding and upgrading groundwater clean-up efforts.

The investment builds on Gottheimer’s broader Clean Water Action Plan, which includes action taken to help our towns, schools, and water treatment facilities remove dangerous lead and forever chemicals from our children’s drinking water, stop waste dumping in the area, and provide greater transparency to our families about drinking water in our schools. 

It also builds on the progress Gottheimer has led over recent years for greater transparency and investment to address dangerous lead and forever chemicals in water in North Jersey schools.

According to public reporting New Jersey has 350,000 lead service lines, which are lead pipes that connect a water main from the curb to premises like a home or school. According to recent research, approximately 480 school buildings across a third of New Jersey’s school districts recorded lead levels that exceeded 15 parts per billion. The EPA estimates that at least 20% of human lead exposure is from drinking water. PFAS, known as forever chemicals, in drinking water has been an issue for towns across the Fifth District and has been linked to numerous adverse health effects, including cancers and impaired child development.

Gottheimer is also working with towns across the Fifth District to claw back even more of our own tax dollars to help improve their water treatment facilities, protect our families, and make life more affordable. The more of our federal tax dollars that we get back to Northern New Jersey, the less pressure on our town budgets and taxpayers. 

“For years now, after hearing from so many parents, I’ve been sounding the alarm on the threat of contaminated drinking water to the health and safety of our families, in our schools and in our homes — whether that’s elevated lead levels or forever chemicals like per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “I helped craft and pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill which invested $168 million for critical New Jersey water infrastructure needs to get forever chemicals and lead out of our families’ water, and improve overall the quality of life for New Jersey families. This new $3.4 million federal investment called back from Washington will help improve Fair Lawn’s filtration systems and address lead, PFAS, and forever chemicals. Once these wells reach acceptable standards, they can be put back online and Fair Lawn will have more control of their own water supply. This will help make life more affordable for families and, more importantly, keep our families safe.”

Gottheimer continued, “We’re also currently working with other communities across the Fifth to help them. The more of our federal tax dollars that we get back to Northern New Jersey, the less our towns have to charge in local taxes — and I’m all about lowering taxes while always standing up for our Jersey Values and protecting our families.”

“Today is a perfect example of the government in Washington and the government in Fair Lawn working together as they were intended to do, meeting the needs of our citizens,” said Fair Lawn Deputy Mayor Cristina Cutrone. “These $3.4 million are crucial to ensuring that we continue to remove any and all harmful chemicals from our water, to making sure that our pipes are lead free, and to addressing the hardness that can cause damage to our appliances and pipes. It means that we can create long-term solutions that will allow us to bring all of our wells back online. On behalf of the entire governing body and the entire town of Fair Lawn, I wanted to sincerely thank Congressman Gottheimer for his hard work in bringing this money to Fair Lawn. We are so grateful.”

“Water quality has a daily impact on the lives of all New Jerseyans, and when we turn on the tap, we expect clean, safe drinking water for our families. We need to make strong investments in our infrastructure now to look to the future of water treatment, ensuring we are removing these 'forever chemicals' like PFOA from our supply. That’s why investments like these in Fair Lawn are so important,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey LCV. "I commend Congressman Gottheimer on securing the funding for water quality improvements in Fair Lawn, and we look forward to continuing to work with him to make water quality improvements throughout the state of New Jersey, especially in communities of color that have some of the oldest infrastructure, and are most in need of improvements.”

Gottheimer was joined today in Fair Lawn by Bergen County Commissioner Mary Amoroso, Fair Lawn Deputy Mayor Cristina Cutrone, local Fair Lawn water utility officials, and Fair Lawn residents and workers.

Gottheimer’s Clean Water Action Plan includes the following:

  • Clawing Back Federal Dollars to North Jersey for Clean Water Projects: In addition to today’s announcement in Fair Lawn, Gottheimer also successfully clawed back a $2.8 million federal investment for Ridgewood Water to improve their water treatment facility and address elevated levels of lead and forever chemicals in the water supply. Ridgewood Water serves more than 62,000 residents across Ridgewood, Wyckoff, Midland Park, and Glen Rock. Gottheimer also secured a $100,000 federal investment clawed back from Washington to Sussex County to help fix critical water infrastructure for our children and families — including repairing older leaking pipes that can cause water contamination. This new investment will help Sussex Borough acquire an acoustic leak detection system to detect leaks and repair them before they become pipe breaks. It will also help make necessary repairs to the 100-year-old water main. This federal investment will help ensure that families and small businesses in Sussex Borough and Wantage have access to clean water. Gottheimer also helped secure $1 billion for Jersey’s critical water infrastructure through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which he helped craft and pass. These investments will help lower the local tax burden on our residents. 
  • Ensuring Transparency in Schools: Working with parents, state legislators, and the Governor, from 2017 to 2019, Gottheimer called to create a centralized, easy-to-access school lead water reporting database for the State of New Jersey. In 2019, the database website was unveiled, allowing for parents and communities to access up-to-date information on dangerous lead water in their children’s schools. Furthermore, a key piece of Gottheimer’s bipartisan Lead-Free Schools Act was enacted into law via the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, creating a targeted pilot program using existing resources to improve drinking water infrastructure in schools nationwide with lead in their water.
  • Replacing Lead Service Lines: Recently, a North Jersey private water provider, Veolia Water, announced that 7,800 lead lines had been removed and that lead levels across the system were at historic lows. Veolia committed to having no lead in their system in 10 years. Gottheimer has now called on every single provider, private and public, to remove lead from all service lines going to houses. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which he helped craft and pass, provides investment to water utilities and municipal water systems to begin removing lead service lines.

Video of today’s announcement can be found here.

Below: Gottheimer with Fair Lawn Deputy Mayor Cristina Cutrone.

 

Below: Gottheimer in Fair Lawn to announce new federal investment for water treatment facilities.

 

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

A year or so ago, I spoke with Deputy Mayor Cutrone and Mayor Peluso, and officials from Fair Lawn’s Water Department. They had a problem. With the state and federal government issuing new requirements for water in the town, it was expensive. 
 
Mayor Peluso and Deputy Mayors Krause and Cutrone, as well as Councilmembers Rottenstrich and Reinitz care deeply about Fair Lawn and of the families. Clean water – free of lead and any chemicals – had always been a top priority, going back to before they were in office. We all stood together in front of a water tower here in 2018.  
 
Today, we have great news for the families of Fair Lawn: we’ve clawed back $3.4 million dollars in federal investment from Washington to Fair Lawn for new and improved water treatment for the community. 
 
This new federal investment, which I fought for, builds on my broader Clean Water Action Plan. That includes steps we’ve taken to help our towns, schools, and water treatment facilities remove dangerous lead and forever chemicals from our children’s drinking water and provide greater transparency to our families about drinking water in our schools. 
 
For years now, after hearing from so many parents, I’ve been sounding the alarm on the threat of contaminated drinking water to the health and safety of our families, in our schools and in our homes — whether that’s elevated lead levels or forever chemicals like per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS.
 
I believe that every child — every family — deserves to drink water that’s free of lead and dangerous chemicals, and every parent deserves to know that their town’s water is safe to drink, whether that’s in their homes or in their schools.
 
Let’s be clear, our water challenges didn’t happen overnight and fixing them won’t either. But, our families deserve action now. Here’s why the progress we’ve already made to date is so important, and why, now, we’re continuing to fight for new resources across Northern New Jersey.
 
The science is clear and concerning: Lead exposure can stunt a child’s development, can cause learning disabilities and appetite loss, and can even lead to permanent damage to their vital organs and nervous systems. Children who are exposed to lead water often experience hearing loss, seizures, and irreversible harm to brain development. 
 
According to the American Water Works Association, New Jersey has 350,000 lead service lines, which are lead pipes that connect a water main to premises like a home or school — from the curb to the home. Any pipe leading to a home or school built before 1988 could have lead pipes.
 
And, according to some recent research, approximately 480 school buildings across a third of New Jersey’s school districts recorded lead levels that exceeded 15 parts per billion, which is unacceptable.
 
Currently, up to 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and child care centers lack safe drinking water. The EPA estimates that at least 20 percent of human lead exposure is from drinking water.
 
But it’s not just lead in our water that we need to worry about. PFAS in our water are forever chemicals from things like Teflon, food packaging, and stain repellents, which have been linked to numerous other adverse health effects, including cancers and impaired child development.
 
I helped craft and pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill which invested $168 million for critical New Jersey water infrastructure needs to get forever chemicals and lead out of our families’ water, and improve overall the quality of life for New Jersey families. Additionally, I am pleased that the State has put into place new public water systems standards for monitoring dangerous chemicals in our water. 
 
We cannot afford to take these risks with our kids; the stakes are simply too high. And I talk to parents about this issue all of the time – especially when residents get one of those blue slips with their water bills, or read a story in the paper.
 
The first, core part of my Clean Water Action Plan, focuses on resources and investment.
 
Last June, while announcing a $2.8 million-dollar federal investment clawed back for Ridgewood water to serve families in Ridgewood, Wyckoff, Midland Park, and Glen Rock, I mentioned that I was working with Fair Lawn to secure new water treatment investments there too.
 
I’m incredibly excited and proud to announce today that by working closely with the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and local Council, as I mentioned, we’ve successfully clawed back a $3.4 million federal investment for the Borough Fair Lawn to improve their water treatment capabilities and address three wells that are currently offline.
 
These wells were taken offline due to increased levels of forever chemicals known as PFAS. I commend the Mayor and Council for taking action following the State implementing new water system standards.
 
Because the Borough is now operating with fewer wells, they’ve been forced to purchase water from private companies.
 
This new federal investment will help improve Fair Lawn’s filtration systems and address lead, PFAS, and forever chemicals. Once these wells reach acceptable standards, they can be put back online and Fair Lawn will have more control of their own water supply. This will help make life more affordable for families because water rates will no longer be controlled by private companies. 
 
The long-term hope is to potentially have a new, full-fledged water treatment facility to handle filtration systems in addition to many of these issues on a broader scale. This new federal investment is the first step in that process, but what’s most important right now is to get these wells back online.
 
As I mentioned earlier, like Fair Lawn, I’ve worked with other towns across the Fifth District, including Ridgewood, Wyckoff, Midland Park, and Glen Rock, to claw back even more of our own tax dollars to help improve their water treatment capabilities. 
 
We clawed back a $2.8 million federal investment for Ridgewood Water to improve their water treatment facility and address elevated levels of lead and forever chemicals in the water supply. Ridgewood Water serves more than 62,000 residents across Ridgewood, Wyckoff, Midland Park, and Glen Rock. 
 
We also landed a $100,000 federal investment clawed back from Washington to Sussex County to help fix critical water infrastructure for our children and families — including repairing older leaking pipes that can cause water contamination. 
 
We’re also currently working with other communities across the Fifth to help them. More news to come on that front soon. 
 
We’re doing this in two ways: First, as part of my responsibilities in Congress, I’ve officially submitted water project requests for towns across the Fifth District.
 
Additionally, as part of the billion dollars I helped secure for Jersey through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, I’ve asked the Governor to allocate resources for these communities and others in my District as part of what the state will receive for critical water infrastructure. In fact, through the historic bipartisan legislation, which I helped craft and pass, the State of New Jersey will finally have the resources to make the investments we need to help replace lead pipes across the state and protect our children’s drinking water.
 
I’ll never stop fighting to claw back the federal dollars that our local projects — run by our town governments — truly need. As you know, that’s been one of my top priorities. The more of our federal tax dollars that we get back to Northern New Jersey, the less our towns have to charge in local taxes — and I’m all about lowering taxes while always standing up for our Jersey Values and protecting our families.
 
The second part of my Clean Water Action Plan is all about transparency, especially about water in our schools. Working with parents, state legislators, and the Governor, going back from 2017 to 2019, I called to create a centralized, easy-to-access school lead water reporting database for the State of New Jersey. It got done. Now, parents and communities can finally have the right up-to-date information on dangerous lead water in their children’s schools.
 
But it’s not just about information about the problems in our schools. It’s also about fighting to get it fixed. A key piece of my bipartisan legislation, the Lead-Free Schools Act, was enacted into law via the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, creating a targeted pilot program using existing resources to improve drinking water infrastructure in schools nationwide that have lead in their water. Far too many schools, including in New Jersey, were built decades or even a century ago, with lead-coated pipes that run into the water fountains and school cafeterias.
  
Our schools have been working year-in and year-out to replace the pipes and change the water fountains. But it's expensive and they’ve needed extra help, including here in Bergen County. The resources we got in 2018 and through legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill are helping keep our kids and teachers safe.
 
The final part of our Clean Water Action Plan is about making sure that every last house in Northern New Jersey can feel good about the water going from the street to their home. For example, Veolia Water recently announced they’ve actually surpassed state and federal guidelines for replacing lead services lines. But, we all know that there is more work to be done to prepare for the future, and I’m continuing to work closely with all of our water providers. 
 
We need that same action from every single provider, private and public, to remove lead from all service lines going to houses. 
 
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill provides investment to water utilities and municipal water systems to do just that.
 
As I said, my Clean Water Action Plan builds on years of work to remove dangerous lead and forever chemicals from children and families’ drinking water.
 
With today’s announcement, we’re clawing back more investment — federal dollars that we’ve secured to come back to help us right here in Fair Lawn. 
 
The bottom line: It’s vital that we continue clawing more of our tax dollars back to Jersey, instead of it all going to the Moocher States, so we can help our local communities, our local water utilities, and our school systems identify and replace all dangerous pipes, fully treat and filter out forever chemicals from our water, and protect our families and children.
 
This is a bipartisan issue that can bring together everyone, so that we can solve a clear problem — and so that here in the greatest country in the world, our best days will always be ahead of us, and our families and children will be safe and healthy.
 
Thank you. God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
 

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