AEA recently wrote to the Governor to inform him about the extraordinary work members have done during the COVID19 emergency. We commend the DEP and the DCA for their guidance and note that water, wastewater, solid waste sector workers also need PPE.
The Hon. Phil Murphy, Governor
Office of Governor
P.O. Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Dear Gov. Murphy:
During your many, thorough public COVID-19 briefings, you have noted the heroism of the medical community, first responders, grocery store workers and others. Like you, the members of the Association of Environmental Authorities feel enormous gratitude toward and admiration for these workers.
The members of AEA are public local, regional, and county authorities and municipal utilities that together provide drinking water, wastewater and solid waste services to most New Jerseyans. We want to take this opportunity to tell you about similar singular and noteworthy efforts in the New Jersey water, wastewater and solid waste sector.
Utilities must always be prepared for emergencies and disasters and so, as COVID-19 was spreading and leaders like you were beginning to sound the alarm, our sector was planning and preparing in order to maintain without interruption vital public health and environmental services: supply of drinking water, collection and treatment of sewage, and collection of trash and recycling. Our members:
- Directed administrative and other non-operations staff to work from home
- Increased disinfection and sanitizing of facilities and equipment
- Organized operations and other mission-direct staff into squads or groups, developing work schedules that would isolate one group from another.
- Created contingency plans and designated on-call staff
- Implemented procedures to limit or eliminate access of third parties such as vendors to plants and facilities.
- Arranged to conduct business online and in safe, socially distant ways.
- Suspended shutoffs for nonpayment. (Note that many public systems don’t do shutoffs for non-payment in any case.)
- Eliminated non-essential field work and customer site visits in order to protect staff
- With the NJDEP, addressed issues such as access sampling sites so that sampling and testing would not be impaired
AEA participates in calls, which involve a cross-section including EPA, NJDEP, OHSP, DOH, NJCICC, NJBPU, investor-owned utilities, publicly owned utilities, and associations. During these calls, we hear updates, share information, trades ideas and strategies, and anticipate collective challenges. We are particularly grateful to Commissioner McCabe, and her staff, and Lt. Gov. Oliver, and the staff at DCA, for their assistance. AEA supports our members with weekly check-in calls. Most utilities are keeping in close touch with neighboring utilities, too. This sharing is not only practical; it provides much-needed moral support as well.
One topic that comes up on every call is the need for PPE. Our workers at wastewater plants and in other aspects of their work need to be protected from COVID19 and other pathogens. We urge you to make PPE for our workers as high a priority as possible.
Thank you, Gov. Murphy, for your great leadership during this crisis. We hope you and your family remain safe.
Peggy Nolting Gallos
Association of Environmental Authorities