Montclair’s water system could get an infusion of federal money if legislation that was passed by the U.S. House gains final approval in the U.S. Senate, officials say.

On July 22, 2022, Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) voted to pass a six-bill appropriations “Minibus” package, which includes funding for nine different community projects, one of which directly impacts Montclair Township. 

To meet urgent needs across the U.S., the House Appropriations Committee invited members of Congress to request funding for projects in their communities. In Montclair, Councilman Peter Yacobellis worked closely with Sherrill’s staff and the township to select a fundable project worth applying for. Together, they decided to address water rehabilitation. 

If the Senate approves the measure, $2,056,000 will go toward completely rehabilitating and creating resilience in Montclair’s water system, which has unacceptably high levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perchlorates.

“We continue to make significant investments and updates to our water and sewer infrastructure across Montclair, to the tune of millions and millions of dollars,” Yacobellis said. “This $2 million appropriation, thanks to the work of our Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, can represent a direct savings to Montclair households.

“To put it in perspective, this would be approximately 50 percent of the total funds we received from the American Rescue Plan. Given how challenging our fiscal environment has been and the relentless list of infrastructure projects that we are or need to focus on, this can be a big win for us. I want to thank the congresswoman for leading the charge.” He called for Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker to ensure the legislation “remains intact as the Senate considers it.”

Improving Montclair’s water quality has been an ongoing project for the township. In July last year, when changes to resident water billing were made, the township’s chief financial officer, Padmaja Rao, said that Montclair has been dealing with an aging water delivery system dating to the 1890s and early 1900s. 

In that same month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a package of bills aimed at protecting New Jersey’s residents from lead poisoning. The new laws require all public community water systems in the state to inventory and ensure all lead, galvanized and brass lines are replaced within 10 years. 

According to the Montclair Water Bureau, the town’s water mains do not contain lead. However, the water service lines running from the water main to the homes of residents may be made of lead, especially if the building was constructed before 1940. By law, all lead service lines in Montclair must be replaced within a 10-year period, which has been an ongoing project for the township. 

“We are an old town with aged infrastructure across the board”, Councilman Yacobellis said. “So pipelines, hydrants, pump stations, filtration facilities, water mains, all of that has been or is being upgraded. We’re now doing a lot more on the sewer front too and looking into improving stormwater infrastructure."

If the legislative package passes the Senate, and Montclair receives the $2 million package, the funding will go toward general infrastructure with an emphasis on water filtration. 

While this funding directed toward Montclair for water rehabilitation significantly benefits the town, there are also a number of other provisions and measures Sherrill voted on that affect the community of Montclair and North Jersey at large. These initiatives address such concerns as transportation, housing and urban development, military construction and veterans, financial services, energy and water, agriculture and interior and environment. 

“I was proud to vote for this legislative package that develops a stronger worker force, helps fight inflation and lowers the cost of living for New Jerseyans,” Sherrill said. “This package also makes strong investments to build safer communities, support our veterans, combat climate change, protect our democracy, and fund the Gateway Tunnel Project to bring reliable, affordable rail to more New Jerseyans.” 

She continued: “Passing this package is a win for our country, our state, and NJ-11. The challenges we face have common sense, bipartisan solutions—and I am working quickly and decisively to address them; now it’s time for the Senate to take up this legislation.” 

Moving forward, Yacobellis mentioned three priorities that he would like to see receive federal funding. 

“One is clean water infrastructure – updating pipes, filtration, etc., and we're working on getting that grant,” he said. “Another is stormwater management. With increasing precipitation, significant development over the last several decades and aging infrastructure here and generally in our region, this is a key area for critical investment. The other is safe, complete streets to ensure we address reckless driving and ensure safer conditions for people moving about without the use of a car.