Emotional East Orange Water Hearing Draws Hundreds
South Orange's water comes from East Orange, which shares concern
South Orange's water comes from East Orange, whose residents are worried about the city’s water safety, lack of notifications from the East Orange Water Commission and possible financial repercussions due to the recent indictment of top water officials and fines levied against the East Orange Water Commission.
Hundreds of residents attended a a City Council hearing Wednesday evening held at the East Orange City Hall chambers. Council members Ted R. Green (Third Ward) and Alicia Holman (Fifth Ward) challenged Mayor Robert L. Bowser for failing to attend the hearing.
Green additionally said, in a Thursday interview, that East Orange residents are concerned not only about water safety, but the impact of the $400,000 in fines levied this week against the East Orange Water Commission. He and fellow council member Holman are "concerned that the taxpayer, who is already stretched thin, will have to make up that amount."
“We have many seniors on fixed incomes here in East Orange, residents want to know what our mayor is going to do to make sure this large fine isn’t passed down to taxpayers in the form of higher water bills,” said Holman.
“It’s been almost a month since top water commission officials were indicted, yet we still haven’t heard directly from the mayor about how safe our water is to drink and what he’s going to do to make sure our families can be confident in the quality of our water," said Green. The City Council held the hearing last night because when it comes to the health and safety of our residents, we need to hear from our city’s leaders every step of the way. I will continue to put the residents of this community first.”
City Council members fielded questions at the hearing from residents for panelists Fred Sickles, NJ Department of Environmental Protection Director for Water Supply and Geoscience and the Vice President of the East Orange Water Commission. However, ongoing legal issues meant few resident questions could be answered fully, said Green.
“It’s going to take all of us to work towards rebuilding that trust that our city’s residents should have that the water they drink is safe," said Holman. "To do that, we need Mayor Bowser to commit to joining us to be more responsive to our residents as we build a plan to increase transparency and accountability at the Water Commission.”