WIPA stands for the Water Infrastructure Protection Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 58:30-1 et seq. In 2015, the New Jersey Legislature enacted WIPA, which allows certain municipalities to sell or long-term-lease their water systems if certain emergent conditions exist.
What is the Department’s role in WIPA process?
The Department’s role is limited to the review of the municipal determination that one or more emergent conditions specified by WIPA exists. The Department will ensure the municipality demonstrates the pre-requisite process as part of the application for review and accept or reject the municipal determination based on the information submitted and available to the Department.
What is an Emergent Condition?
WIPA identifies five emergent conditions of which at least one must be met for a municipality to qualify for the WIPA process:
- Emergent Condition #1 – the system is located in an Area of Critical Water Supply Concern I or II, or any future designation or newly added area of critical water supply concern;
- Emergent Condition #2 – the owner of the system is a significant noncomplier, as defined pursuant to the Water Pollution Control Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10A-1 et seq., the system has been the subject of a formal enforcement action initiated by the Department or is substantially out of compliance with an administrative consent order, settlement agreement, or stipulation of settlement or judicial consent order entered into with the Department;
- Emergent Condition #3 – there is a present deficiency or violation of maximum contaminant levels established pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act, N.J.S.A. 58:12A-1 et seq., concerning the availability or potability of water, or concerning the provision of water at adequate volume or pressure, or distribution or treatment of wastewater;
- Emergent Condition #4 – there is a demonstrated lack of historical investment, repair, or sustainable maintenance as determined by the Department, or material damage to the infrastructure of the system; or
- Emergent Conditions #5 – the system owner lacks the financial, technical, or managerial capacity to adequately address any of the foregoing on a sustainable basis or own and operate the system in a way that supports economic activity in the municipality on a sustainable basis.
Who qualifies for the WIPA process?
WIPA defines “owner” as any municipality that owns water or wastewater assets, except a municipality that is a city of the first class with a population of 270,000 or more according to the latest federal decennial census. Municipalities constituting a joint meeting and the joint meeting itself are not considered an owner. Municipal utility and sewerage authorities are also not considered an owner.
Water Infrastructure Protection Act
The legislation provided the following findings:
- The maintenance and operation of water and wastewater treatment and conveyance systems is vital to ensuring the protection of water quality and clean drinking water in New Jersey;
- There are public water and wastewater systems in the State that present serious risks to the integrity of drinking water and the environment because of issues such as aging infrastructure systems, the deterioration of the physical assets of the systems, or damage to infrastructure so severe that it is beyond governmental capacity to restore;
- Under the appropriate circumstances, the transfer of these threatened water and wastewater assets to a capable private or public entity with the financial resources and expertise to improve management, operation, and continued maintenance of the assets could help ensure the protection of drinking water; and
- It is in the public interest that public entities have the option to transfer, lease, or sell water or wastewater assets if there exist emergent conditions that threaten drinking water or the environment.”