On June 14th Perth Amboy City Council voted 3-2 to finance the $330 million Perth Amboy Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) Project proposed by the CABA administration through huge sewer rate increases. Councilman BJ Torres and Councilwoman Hailey Cruz first moved to table the proposal so more residents could be informed about the project and other financing plans could be presented. But the City Attorney William Opel advised to push it through to a vote. Councilman Torres and Councilwoman Cruz both voted no on the sewer rate increases, saying that other financing is available for the project that would not put a heavy burden on what is already an environmental justice community. Environmental Justice communities, which Perth Amboy has been designated by the State, are ones that are overburden with environmental problems and poverty. The double digit sewer rate increases would begin in 2023 and will be a 22.3% increase, and in 2024 an additional 7.2% (29.5%) and 7.2% more each year through 2027. The quarterly increase in the water/sewer bill is projected to be $250 in 2023 and $330 by 2027.
DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette had been in Perth Amboy on Tuesday holding an environmental justice forum with the Perth Amboy community where he explained how hundreds of millions of dollars are available for Perth Amboy to apply for funds for the CSO Project. The DEP Commissioner reported that Perth Amboy did not apply for any of the $300 million set aside for CSO water infrastructure projects by the Murphy Administration from American Rescue Funds. DEP commissioner said that the Perth Amboy CSO project does not have to be financed with high sewer rate increases. Perth Amboy can apply for future rounds of funding.
Perth Amboy Business Administrator Micheal Green confirmed that the city did not apply for any of the $300 million in funding that Murphy had set aside to fund NJ water infrastructure projects, specifically CSO projects with American Rescue Funds. BA Micheal Green did not say how the city would ensure that no funding opportunities to pay for the CSO project were missed again. Perth Amboy Water Dept Rep. Mr Perez-Jimenez did not explain why he had not applied for the DEP CSO funding made available by Gov Murphy. CDM Smith presented the CSO plan financed by the sewer rate increases.
Councilwoman Tejada, Morales and Councilman Pucci all voted yes for the sewer rate increases to finance the $330 million CSO plan.
THE CSO plan would address the water pollution caused after rainfall due to the antiquated combined sewer system and is mandated by the EPA. Perth Amboy is one of 21 communities in NJ which have to address CSO issues.
Councilman Torres asked why the CABA Administration didn’t put the American Rescue Funds that Perth Amboy received to this water infrastructure project.