PASSAIC, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There’s a push in New Jersey to replace thousands of lead service lines carrying water to homes and fixing it could hit homeowners’ wallets hard, so one water utility company is asking the state to help with the hefty burden.

Old lead service lines — it’s not just a Newark problem, it’s a New Jersey problem.

The Passaic Valley Water Commission, which services Passaic and Bergen counties, estimates 14,000 customer lead service lines remain. Replacing the pipe that runs from the curb to the house can cost homeowners more than $4,000.

“Hopefully with this money that we’ll get from the state, that number will be able to lower that substantially,” said Joseph Bella, PVWC executive director.

The PVWC is asking the state for $26 million in the form of a loan, grant or both to help reduce the cost for customers and improve the safety of the drinking water.

Gov. Phil Murphy made this a priority in his State of the State speech this month.

Paterson is most heavily affected,” Bella said.

About 7,000 homes need to be updated in Paterson. The other 7,000 lead service lines are throughout the system in Clifton, Passaic and Prospect Park.

Officials say the bigger issue is an open-air water reservoir in Paterson, where pre-treated drinking water sits out in the open. The water company is asking for another $26 million from the state to enclose the area.

“The problem we have is to add phosphates to the water, which would lower lead corrosion. Those phosphates would get in here and that would stimulate the growth of things like algae and bacteria because phosphates are fertilizers,” Bella said.

PVWC says in 1975, there were more than 800 open-air reservoirs. Methods have changed. Now there are only seven in the whole country — five of which are in New Jersey.

The service lines replacement is similar to the project in Newark. Neighboring Bloomfield is also replacing its lines, and Belleville is planning to do the same.

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