Rutgers professor presents lecture on NJ infrastructure issues


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Photo by Dan Corey |

Daniel Van Abs, associate research professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, explained Jersey’s water infrastructure crisis yesterday on Cook campus. 


Comparing the average age of most New Jersey water pipelines to the age of the Baby Boomers, since both were “born” in the same era, Daniel Van Abs said the quality of New Jersey’s material infrastructure has been declining since its implementation. 

Students, faculty and research colleagues came together yesterday morning to learn about New Jersey’s water supply, sewage water and storm-water infrastructure. 

Van Abs, associate research professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, presented his research at the event sponsored by the Department of Human Ecology at Blake Hall on Cook Campus. 

In his lecture entitled, “New Jersey’s Creeping Crisis in Water Infrastructure,” Van Abs highlighted the need for New Jersey to to update its aging and antiquated water system. 

“New Jersey is in a very difficult situation because we have a lot of very old and quickly aging [water] infrastructure,” Van Abs said. “A lot of that infrastructure will need to be replaced or repaired in the next 20 to 30 years.”

The cost of doing that, he said, is likely to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

For Van Abs’ research, he looked at various trend lines regarding population growth, technological timelines and charts of the most commonly used materials during particular time periods.

With that information, he was able to center in on water infrastructure as something of critical importance, contrasting it with the 19th-century port of Manhattan. Breaking the water system down into two categories, Van Abs emphasized the equal importance of providing drinking water and removing wastewater. 

“There are things that we build that are absolutely necessary for the functioning of our society,” Van Abs said. “As well as any other urbanized society, we must have the ability to get clean water to households and send wastewater away from them.” 

This importance of ensuring the ability to transport both types of water was a point of interest for several audience members at Van Abs’ seminar. 

Daniel Clark, a graduate student at the University, said he has a larger knowledge base of national infrastructure issues than state level issues. 

“[I’m here] to learn more about our infrastructure in New Jersey,” he said. “I’m more aware to some extent of national infrastructure issues, but I guess my background on water infrastructure specifically in New Jersey is limited.”

David Ferring, a teaching assistant in the Department of Human Ecology and a graduate student, said he thought the seminar was a good way of broadening his knowledge base.

“I teach in the Department of Human Ecology, but as a geography student, I find it useful to explore what other people are doing within and beyond the department,” Ferring said. “I’m mainly here to learn, but I’m also here to support the human ecology department.” 

While Van Abs did provide information regarding the current conditions of New Jersey’s water infrastructure, he also addressed how to fix the problem. 

“The things we build start degenerating the moment they are put into place,” Van Abs said. “That very moment starts the beginning of their death.”

For the sake of public safety and health, Van Abs said no argument could be made regarding this problem. Because the entire system should have been updated to more modern technology a long time ago, and still has yet to be done, he said the subject couldn’t be avoided for much longer.

“Infrastructure doesn’t care who’s in charge, doesn’t care whose [political] party is in power and doesn’t care about the state of our economy…[it] just decays as it’s going to decay, and we need to set aside the partisan nature of our system and recognize that this is an issue we must deal with,” he said.


Dan Corey

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