COURTESY JACEK DYLAG
A new fee could be added to your water bill to pay for required mapping and testing.

By Kelly Nicholaides
for Montclair Local

Montclair’s water pipes, some of which are 150 years old, need to be mapped, and valves must be tested. Residents may see a surcharge as a result, town officials confirmed.

The maintenance is a requirement under the state Water Quality Accountability Act (2017), Gary Obszarny, director of the Montclair Water Bureau, told the Mayor and Council at the Feb. 5 meeting. Although mapping is only done once, testing is required every two years on 6 and 12-inch pipes.

“We’ve got over 1,400 valves, around four to six at every intersection. GIS [Geographic Information Systems] mapping we have to do for every valve so we have a base map. Some valves we do not want to touch. They’re from the 1930s. If I open one and can’t close it, it will empty into other areas. I’d rather change those valves, put in new ones. Tank valves haven‘t been turned since the 1970s. And some are 20 feet into the chamber,” Obszarny said.

The Water Quality Accountability Act requires purveyors to create and implement an asset-management plan designed to inspect, maintain and renew its infrastructure consistent with standards established by the American Water Works Association.

The town may introduce an ordinance imposing the surcharge quarterly, based on rates depending on the size of the water meter, Township Manager Tim Stafford said.

While water rates over the last three years saw slight increases, 2018 brought no increase.

Most residents pay $34 per period, four times a year. This rate, which saw a $1 hike each year from 2015 to 2017, includes 7,480 gallons of water. For each additional 748 gallons used, the residents pay a rate of $3.74 during January, February, March, October, November and December. From April through September the rate jumps to $4.49. Over the last three years that rate averaged an annual increase of about 11 cents during non-peak times and 31 cents during peak season on 748 gallons of water, but saw no increase in 2018.

READ: What’s up with your sewer and water bill

Mayor Robert Jackson said he wants the town’s legal counsel to determine if Montclair can hold off on the testing and mapping for two years.

The Montclair & Glen Ridge Annual Drinking Water Quality Report in 2017 shows that no violations listed. The report lists levels of 16 regulated substances, lead and copper, 17 secondary substances, eight unregulated contaminants, and three microbiological contaminants, the amounts detected, and ranges.  The regulated substances include chlorine, uranium, mercury, fluoride and nitrate. The unregulated contaminants include chromium, naturally occurring elements metals like vanadium, an ether used in the manufacture of paper and cotton, acids used to produce cathode ray tube televisions, man-made chemicals used to make stains, greases, polishes, adhesives and photographic films. Microbiological contaminants include coliform bacteria and microbial pathogens.

North Jersey District Water Supply Commission supplies the town’s water, from the 29.6 billion-gallon Wanaque Reservoir and Treatment Plant and 7-billion-gallon Monksville Reservoir, according to the report. Montclair receives its water through the Grove Street pumping station. The Montclair system includes three municipal wells.

The 2018 report will be published in a few months, sent to all water customers and posted on the township website, said Katya Wowk, Communications Director.

Seniors can apply for a 25 percent discount on their water bill through the water department.