Above: Gottheimer with Ridgewood Water and local leaders today at a Ridgewood Water treatment facility.
RIDGEWOOD, NJ — Today, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer and Ridgewood Water announced a request for federal investment to improve water treatment in order to combat “forever chemicals” harming the local water supply. The publicly-owned utility has already spent several million dollars installing treatment technologies, but more investment is needed for Ridgewood Water to fully build the necessary drinking water treatment facilities to address lead in the water, PFAS, and other forever chemicals.
Ridgewood Water, which serves Ridgewood, Glen Rock, Midland Park, and Wyckoff, has been fighting back against polluters whose actions have contaminated surface and groundwater with forever chemicals like per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In previous years, Ridgewood Water found evidence of PFAS in most of their 52 wells at levels that would exceed certain standards.
Gottheimer and Ridgewood Water have formally requested federal investment for the Ridgewood Water Drinking Water Treatment Facilities Construction project through Congress’ new Community Project Funding — for Ridgewood Water to meet NJDEP and EPA standards for non-detection levels by 2025.
“After hearing repeatedly from Ridgewood Water and many of our towns, including our mayors and councils, I recently requested federal resources to help our towns and water utilities update their equipment to address lead in the water, PFAS, and other forever chemicals,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “These are our tax dollars that, if approved and finalized by Congress, can be clawed back directly from Washington to help us here.
Gottheimer has also requested federal investment for water infrastructure improvements in Paramus, Saddle River, and in Sussex Borough, where a 100-year-old water utility system routinely suffers leaks.
Gottheimer was joined at today’s press conference by Ridgewood Mayor Susan Knudsen, Glen Rock Councilmember Amy Martin, Glen Rock Councilmember Jon Cole, Richard Calbi of Ridgewood Water, and other local leaders.
“Forever chemicals, such as PFAS, need to be filtered from our drinking water to non-detect regulatory levels. Ridgewood Water thanks Congressman Gottheimer for helping Ridgewood Water be PFAS free and recover funding for the treatment, to lessen the impact to the consumers, who didn’t put the contamination in the groundwater,” said Richard Calbi Jr. P.E., P.P., the Director of Operations for Ridgewood Water.
“Safe drinking water is essential and the Village is grateful for Congressman Gottheimer’s tireless efforts helping to address the costly remediation of PFAS contaminants,” said Ridgewood Mayor Susan Knudsen, whose community is serviced by Ridgewood Water.
“I am grateful to the Congressman for hearing our concerns and showing his support of our most vital resource,” said Glen Rock Mayor Kristine Morieko, whose community is serviced by Ridgewood Water.
Watch today’s announcement here.
Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
I’m here today because — for years now — I’ve been sounding the alarm on the threat to the health and safety of our families and kids: contaminated drinking water — whether it be dangerously 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 drinking water is safe to drink.
Today, I’m announcing new federal action to claw back even more of our own tax dollars to help Northern New Jersey improve our water treatment in our communities and combat forever chemicals harming our local water supply and putting our families and children at risk.
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.
And PFAS are forever chemicals from things like Teflon, food packaging, and stain repellents, that have been linked to numerous other adverse health effects, including cancers and impaired child development.
We cannot afford to take these risks with our kids; the stakes are simply too high.
Because of that, our communities’ water source officials are required to clean up the mess right here in our own backyards. Ridgewood Water, which serves the towns of Ridgewood, Glen Rock, Midland Park, and Wyckoff, has been fighting back against polluters whose actions have contaminated our surface and groundwater with forever chemicals. In previous years, they found evidence of these forever chemicals in most of their 52 wells at levels that would exceed certain standards. They’ve already installed treatment technologies and they’ve spent several million dollars to help keep our residents safe. But, it’s very expensive — and they can’t just dump the cost on our families. It would be hundreds of dollars a year for every household. So, as a publicly owned system, they need more help.
That’s why, after hearing repeatedly from Ridgewood Water and many of our towns, including our mayors and councils, I recently requested federal resources to help our towns and water utilities update their equipment to address lead in the water, PFAS, and other forever chemicals.
These are our tax dollars that, if approved and finalized by Congress, can be clawed back from Washington directly to help us here.
One of the key projects we are fighting for is to get direct federal investment for Ridgewood Water — to invest in building a desperately needed drinking water treatment facility to meet NJ Department of Environmental Protection and federal EPA requirements — so that we can get the forever chemicals down to a non-detection level.
And it’s not just here with Ridgewood Water.
I’m also fighting for other communities that have requested help, including in Paramus, Saddle River, and in Sussex Borough, where their 100-year-old water utility system routinely suffers leaks.
We know that every funding request won’t be approved, but, as my dad always said, if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and 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.
At the federal level, I’m also committed to finding a bipartisan path forward for a robust infrastructure plan — something that North Jersey could greatly benefit from — to finally fix our crumbling bridges, roads, and tunnels, to get the Gateway Project finished, to boost broadband connectivity for our rural residents, and to address the lead pipes that have plagued Jersey with issues for far too long.
Included in the President’s infrastructure proposal is something that I know both sides of the aisle will be able to support: replacing every single one of our nation’s lead pipes in order to protect our kids.
We need to eliminate the dangerous lead pipes here in North Jersey, across the Garden State, and nationwide. We also need to upgrade and modernize our drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems, tackle these contaminants, and support clean water infrastructure in our rural communities.
We’ve already had some great success here in Jersey tackling these issues:
I helped lead the call to create a centralized, easy-to-access school lead water reporting database for the State of New Jersey, so parents and communities could finally have the right up-to-date information on dangerous lead water in their children’s schools.
Also, a key piece of my bipartisan legislation, the Lead-Free Schools Act, was enacted into law, creating a targeted pilot program using existing resources to improve drinking water infrastructure in schools nationwide that have lead in their water.
But it’s vital that we continue clawing more resources back to New Jersey, from the Moocher States, to 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 kids.
This is a bipartisan issue that can bring together everyone, so that we can solve a clear problem.
These steps will help ensure, as ever, here in the greatest country in the world, that our best days will always be ahead of us and that 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.