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RED BANK: WEST SIDE LEAD PIPE PLAN OK’D

red-bank-lead-water-connectors-020823-500x292-4257190Eighty percent of Red Bank properties have an unknown type of water service line, according to ENGenuity. (Image by ENGenuity. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-2130637Red Bank’s West Side streets will soon be abuzz with street-opening backhoes as as the borough embarks on a massive, decade-long effort to identify and replace lead water lines.

jaclyn-flor-020823-500x375-5139498ENGenuity owner Jaclyn Flora detailed the plan at the council session. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

Engineer Jaclyn Flor, owner of borough-based ENGenuity Infrastructure, told the council Wednesday night that the borough had completed a lead-service line inventory required of all municipalities by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection last July.

The firm “went through all your historical records” to create a detailed inventory of underground lead, copper and galvanized service lines, she said.

Three-hundred-sixty-six properties in town are now known to have lead lines, she said, and each owner was notified via certified letter by August, she said.

The hunt also concluded “that there are still a lot of locations where additional investigation would be required” to determine if lead pipes are present, she said.

Red Bank has 2,967 properties where the type of service line is unknown, said Flor.

Of the borough’s 4,000 or so properties, some 600 may not have any service lines, because they’re lots associated with others that do, she said.

Under federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the borough will also have to alert owners of properties whose type of service line is unknown by October, 2024.

To minimize “worry” by homeowners, many municipalities are racing to determine which type of line is used in cases now classified as unknown, said Flor.

Towns and cities also are required to replace at least 10 percent of their lead lines per year, with the goal of eliminating them by 2031, Flor said. Red Bank’s obligation is to replace 37 this year, she said.

Over the next eight years, Red Bank’s identification and replacement work may cost $7 million, Flor estimated. If financed under the DEP’s Infrastructure Bank, she added, the borough has confirmed it would be eligible for 50-percent principal forgiveness this year, but only for a portion of town: Census tract 803400, or most of the West Side.

That area, west of Maple Avenue and south of Oakland Street, meets specific I-Bank criteria, Flor said. Those include 35 percent of households with income of $68,196 or less: in the tract, that level was 47.6 percent, she said.

“This Census tract was always what you intended to do first,” Flor said. In addition, “you can see that this area has the most vulnerability” based on criteria such as residents under age 18 or over age 65, language barriers and English proficiency, she said.

“That whole area actually qualifies for 50-percent principal forgiveness,” Flor said.

The tract has 125 known lead-served properties, and 1,000 that are unknown and will need “test pits” dug to answer, at an estimated cost of $500 each, she said. For replacements, “we’re seeing prices of anywhere from $8,500 to $10,000, to do the entire line,” she said

In order to qualify for the debt forgiveness, the borough must award a contract for the work by June 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year, Flor said.

The borough has already filed a letter of intent with I-Bank to borrow the funds, she said, so it’s on schedule to meet the target.

Future rounds of principal forgiveness are unknown, because the criteria change annually, Flor said.

In response to Flor’s presentation, the council introduced a $2.4 million bond ordinance to cover the costs of 1,000 test pits and restorations, as well as 125 line replacements.

The replacements would cover pipes from the main up to the curb, “and, as applicable, from the curb onto real property, including, but not limited to, privately-owned real property and privately-owned structures at various locations,” according to the ordinance.

Meantime, the borough is looking into having the utilities department work on reducing the inventory of “unknowns” in-house, without having to hire contractors, over the next 18 months, Flor said.

In addition, all known data is being assembled into a GIS system that will enable the utilities department to know which types of lines are present at particular addresses “in real time,” Flor said.

In response to a question by Councilmember John Jackson, Flor estimated that 15 percent of the unknowns will turn out to be lead lines needing replacement.

Here’s ENGenuity’s Power Point: Red Bank Lead Pipe Plan 020823

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