Mayor, Councilman: New Brunswick Should Pay for Any Additional Water Tests

Say city should 'ante up' for testing caused by recent water utility scandal

Brian Levine

Mayor Brian Levine

New Brunswick should “ante up” if the township has to do any additional water supply testing in the wake of charges that the neighboring city’s former water department operator falsified three year’s worth of water tests.

That was the word Nov. 26 from Township Councilman Brian Regan (At-Large) and Mayor Brian Levine after the council was told of a possible additional water testing program by township manager Robert Vornlocker.

“That is unacceptable,” Regan said of the allegations about the falsified reports.

Vornlocker said there was already talk of expanding the township’s water testing program beyond what is required by the state Department of Environmental Protection, but the recent DEP announcement of an enforcement action against New Brunswick’s former water department operator has given that idea a new urgency.

Brian Regan

Township Councilman Brian Regan (At-Large)

The township buys its water from New Brunswick as well as from New Jersey American Water and South Brunswick. Water served to the bulk of the township is actually co-mingled from the New Brunswick feeds on the eastern side of the township and NJAW feeds on the western side, Vornlocker said.

The DEP on Nov. 14 announced that it had taken administrative action against the New Brunswick Water Department and its now-suspended operator, Edward O’Rourke. The DEP alleged that O’Rourke “repeatedly filed false reports for various water quality tests, submitted incorrectly calculated test results, and failed to notify the public when standards were not met,” according to a release about the action.

The DEP alleged that from early 2010 to the spring of 2013, “New Brunswick Water Department repeatedly reported no problems with drinking water standards for key water criteria used to measure the potential for pathogens to be in the water supply,” according to the release. An investigation by the DEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency “which looked closely at internal records kept by the water department, found that the system repeatedly violated these standards.”

The DEP considers the violations to be serious because they had the potential to expose the public to disease-causing microorganisms, the release said.

O’Rourke was suspended without pay by the city and was fined $17,000 by DEP.

“We should go after New Brunswick” if the township has to pay anything extra to deal with the water scandal, Regan said during council comments.

“If we incur additional costs because of the charges that the (New Brunswick) results have been falsified, and we have to run additional tests, the cost of that should be incurred by New Brunswick, not by us,” he said.

Levine said he agreed with Regan.

“I think we should tell New Brunswick to ante up,” he said.

Levine said he was also surprised that New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill didn’t contact him after news of the scandal broke.

“Since it’s their mess-up, I would think they would want to reach out to their customers and say, ‘oops, sorry, we’ll help out’,” he said. “(Cahill) didn’t reach out to me, but it would have been nice.”

Vornlocker said an additional water testing program – already under discussion before the DEP announcement – will be presented as part of the water utility’s 2014 budget request.

In 2013, the township paid $12 each for the state-required 624 water tests during the year, Vornlocker said. He said in 2014, that cost is rising to $15 for each test.

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