New Jersey water utility launching program to remove 25 percent of lead from drinking water

HAWORTH, New Jersey (WABC) -- A New Jersey water utility announced a new initiative to remove 25 percent of the lead from drinking water in two north Jersey counties, with the ultimate goal of removing all the lead.

SUEZ Water is launching a comprehensive lead service line replacement project, with more than a dozen crews mobilizing across Bergen and Hudson counties.

Company officials say they will target lead service lines, as well as pipes that connect water mains in the street to individual homes.

As many as 100 lead lines will be replaced each week, with a goal of approximately 2,400 by the end of the year.

The $15 million project will remove 50,000 feet of lead from the system.

"This has been an all hands on deck effort to attack this issue. It's a targeted approach that will maximize the amount of lead removed," SUEZ vice president and general manager Mark McKoy said. "We are moving quickly on this serious matter and are thankful to Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and town officials for working closely with us to help our customers."

The work will begin in eight municipalities over the next several weeks that have the highest number of lead service lines. They include Bogota, Hackensack, North Bergen, Ridgefield Park, Rutherford, Teaneck, Union City and West New York.

Other municipalities with smaller pockets of lead service lines are also being targeted, and crews will begin in Alpine, Lodi, Old Tappan, River Vale, Upper Saddle River and Wallington, and eventually other areas of Bergen and Hudson counties.

In addition, SUEZ is working with Bergen County to replace lead service lines in coordination with road reconstruction projects. Service lines will also be replaced in East Rutherford and Little Ferry in conjunction with roadway improvement projects.

Following a sampling program that found elevated levels of lead in 15 of 108 homes tested in Bergen and Hudson counties, SUEZ has been working intensely to address the issue.

Water quality specialists have been analyzing lab data, and engineers and operations personnel continue to monitor corrosion control and have developed a master plan to remove lead from the system. Others have been coordinating with town officials so that work can begin in early April.

Work is already underway at many of the 15 homes that showed elevated lead levels, and SUEZ is replacing its lead service lines and also providing free replacement of lead lines owned by customers.

"It was important to us to make sure that our customers in these homes know we are doing everything we can for them," McKoy said. "Replacing those lines is the right thing to do."

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