About Trenton Water Works
Trenton Water Works (TWW) is a public water system owned and operated by the City of Trenton. TWW draws raw surface water from the Delaware River to treat and provide drinking water to more than 200,000 people in Trenton, as well as portions of Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and Lawrence.
DEP Regulation of Trenton Water Works
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), through its Division of Water Supply & Geoscience, regulates public water systems to ensure their compliance with state and federal water supply laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act.
As part of a long-term effort to assist TWW in meeting its safe drinking water compliance obligations, DEP conducts routine inspections, meets frequently with TWW representatives, and provides technical assistance. Based on its continuing assessment, in September 2022, DEP advised the City of Trenton’s leadership to significant public health and safety risks that TWW must resolve.
As of September 2022, DEP found that TWW has intermittently struggled to fully maintain critical treatment processes, monitor water quality, employ adequately trained operating personnel, and invest in required maintenance and capital needs, including significant upgrades to aging infrastructure such as the 7-acre, open-air finished water reservoir that stores and provides already treated water to about 70 percent of TWW’s distribution system.
Direct Operational Oversight of TWW
On October 12, 2022, Governor Phil Murphy announced that DEP would initiate direct operational oversight to further support and improve TWW today and assist in securing its future performance.
Based on the DEP assessment, there are significant public health and safety concerns that need to be addressed by TWW and the City of Trenton.
Oversight Objectives: Build Technical Capacity and Assess Long-Term Needs
DEP will assist TWW pursuant to a binding administrative order with two principal components that will be pursued concurrently:
- Immediate deployment of a capacity-building force comprised of managerial and technical experts who will focus on improving routine operations and maintenance, as well as resolving immediate capital needs.
- Undertake a 360-degree assessment of TWW’s technical, managerial, and financial capacity, resulting in the development of system-wide organizational, capital, and operational recommendations.
To effect Phase 1, TWW will facilitate the direct oversight and monitoring of the system by DEP and its consultants, which will include the retention of a third-party that will be embedded within the system for the purposes of monitoring and assessing all system operations and maintenance, adding necessary technical and managerial capacity to the system, and making technical, managerial, and financial recommendations necessary to bring the system into full compliance with applicable law.
To effect Phase 2, a third-party adviser will undertake a comprehensive technical, managerial, and financial capacity assessment of the system that will result in a report of organizational and operational recommendations, as well as short- and long-term asset management and capital improvement recommendations that will serve the basis of future action and investment.
What to Expect
Users of Trenton Water Works can expect that DEP and a third-party will work closely with the City and direct the timely resolution of all instances of noncompliance, including matters identified during recent inspections. As of October 12, 2022, water quality sample results submitted to DEP by TWW reflect that the water system meets applicable water quality standards. The goal of direct operational oversight, however, is to secure improvements to TWW, its operations and maintenance, to ensure that requirements intended to protect public health and the environment are consistently and reliably achieved. This includes ensuring that contaminants that may present a danger to human health are not currently in or likely to enter the system.
DEP will continue to closely monitor water quality parameters and other indicators of the status of the TWW system. If TWW exceeds a regulatory standard for drinking water quality, or if DEP otherwise determines that a risk to public health exists, the appropriate public notification will be issued to all TWW customers.
Existing sample results submitted to DEP by TWW are accessible to the public from the DEP Drinking Water Watch website.
DEP, through its Division of Water Enforcement, most recently performed TWW facility inspections on October 26, 2021, October 27, 2021, November 8, 2021, and February 3, 2022, and has met continuously with TWW representatives to provide significant compliance assistance, resulting in a September 27, 2022 Compliance Evaluation and Assistance Inspection Report that summarized then-current DEP observations and concerns.
A recent history of relevant DEP documents is accessible below.
- Forbearance Letter to Trenton October 12, 2022
- Unilateral Administrative Order, October 12, 2022 October 12, 2022
- DEP Inspection Report September 27, 2022
- I-Bank-DEP Letter to Trenton Mayor and Council August 16, 2022
- I-Bank-DEP Letter to Trenton Mayor and Council July 28, 2022
- DEP Inspection Report April 2019
- DEP Administrative Consent Order February 5, 2018
- DEP Inspection Report March 2018
- DEP Administrative Consent Order July 26, 2018
- DEP Administrative Consent Order February 1, 2014
- US Environmental Protection Agency, Sanitary Survey July 12, 2013
- DEP Administrative Consent Order March 24, 2009
Additional Resources and Information
- Murphy Administration Launches Initiative to Support and Improve Trenton Water Works, Ensure Safe Drinking Water (Governor’s Office News Release)
- Annual Public Water System Compliance Reports
- To report specific drinking water quality complaints to DEP
- View water quality information on Drinking Water Watch
- Historical TWW Documents
DEP Report to Governor Brendan T. Byrne on Trenton Water, May 1976