By LRWP Board Member, Doriann Kerber
Infrastructure Week has finally arrived! We’ve been waiting for this all year. (No, really!)
Infrastructure Week, May 13 thru 20, is dedicated to understanding the importance of good infrastructure to our public health, quality of life, ability to cook our food, power our devices, get to work. Investment in infrastructure is an investment in our economic future.
Power companies are busy making investments in upgrading the electric grid to be ready for future growth, and developing new sources of energy to meet the challenges of climate change. Anyone who has been for a drive along New Jersey’s roads, or a ride on NJ Transit, is well aware of the need for new investment in our transportation systems. New Jersey has established ways to pay for necessary energy and transportation improvements.
There is one more important category that is often forgotten when we talk about infrastructure — our water systems. Most of us take for granted when we turn on the tap we get safe, clean water, and when we flush the toilet our wastewater is carried safely to a treatment plant. Infrastructure Week is a good opportunity for us to remind ourselves this does not happen without investment. Here are five ways to learn more about the importance of your water systems:
• Tour a sewage treatment plant. This is not as gross as it sounds! On Thursday, May 16, Jersey Water Works, the statewide coalition dedicated to upgrading our water infrastructure systems, is hosting a tour of the Asbury Park wastewater treatment plant. Meet at the plant, 1700 Kingsley St., Asbury Park, at 3:00 pm. The tour lasts about 90 minutes. It’s free and registration is required. Bonus: Networking happy hour afterwards at Anchor’s Bend Brewery, in the arcade at the Asbury Park Convention Center.
• Ask the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, Catherine McCabe, if your water is safe to drink. She will be at the Princeton Public Library for a panel discussion about the state of New Jersey’s drinking water on Tuesday, May 14, from 7 to 8:30 pm. The event is open to the public.
• Learn about green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is a more holistic way for towns to manage rainfall than just letting it run into storm sewers. The smart-growth policy nonprofit New Jersey Future is hosting a workshop in Evesham on Tuesday, May 14, from 6 to 8 pm, to introduce a toolkit they have developed to help towns make better use of this technique. The event is free and registration is required.
• Learn about the link between green infrastructure and environmental justice. Hop on a free webinar Wednesday, May 15, at 1 pm, and hear Stacey Eriksen from EPA Region 8 and Andy Kricun from the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority discuss how green infrastructure can bring environmental, economic, and social benefits to the communities that need them the most.
• Learn how your town can pay for better water infrastructure. Jersey Water Works and New Jersey Future have developed a guide to help towns and utilities applying to the state for money to improve water systems, and especially for financing green infrastructure initiatives. They’re sponsoring a public workshop on Thursday, May 16, from 10 a.m. to noon at the offices of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, 1085 Raymond Blvd., Newark, to explain the process and how to use the guide. The workshop is free and registration is required.