South Orange Files Notice of Emergency Relief Against EOWC
Township alleges multiple recent wrongdoings by the water company.
Counsel for the Township of South Orange Village has filed a Notice of Emergency Relief against the provider of water for the town, East Orange Water Commission (EOWC). This is the latest in what has been an ongoing legal battle with the commission for several months. The town is asking for an overseer to be appointed in regard to EOWC’s treatment of South Orange’s water.
On October 14, the licensed operator of record for EOWC, William Mowell, was issued a suspension of six months and fined $17,000 by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for his failure to comply with multiple requests for records. In addition, an inspection showed that wells had been turned on and off for unknown reasons and that the sampling data provided by EOWC has not been accurate of the water flowing.
On June 20, the NJDEP asked Mowell for a report on the water main break the day before. Mowell did not comply with the request.
In July, the NJDEP asked Mowell for the sampling results from a water test done on April 14. Once again, Mowell did not comply.
When representatives of the government agency visited EOWC’s headquarters in August, they met with Mowell personally and asked to see his logs and pumping results. They were turned away without viewing the materials.
Mowell was fined $3,500 for the first non-compliance and the penalty increased to $4,500 for subsequent ones.
The reason for the records and sampling requests was due to the levels of Tetrachloroethylene, also known as PCE, found in the water. PCE is a volatile organic compound (VOC), colorless liquid, used primarily as a solvent in dry cleaning, but also as a degreasing solvent in metal industries in the synthesis of other compounds. The Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for PCE is 1 part per billion (ppb) and the health effects of PCE are measured in 2 liters per day for 70 years. The estimated excess lifetime cancer risk at the MCL of 1 ppb is 2 in one million additional risk of cancer.
EOWC was above the legal limit of PCE allowed in its water stream on five different occasions over the last two years. The highest was in January 2011 which had a ppb of 3.46. In March 2011, the ppb was 0.304, it’s lowest since November 2009 and considerably lower than the 1.203 ppb listed in February.
On August 23, the NJDEP performed an on-site inspection of EOWC and found that in March and April 2011, EOWC turned off certain wells during the sampling, lowering the ppb for those months. They would then turn the wells back on afterwards. This showed that the 0.304 rating was not accurate and that EOWC violated the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Water Supply Management Act.
The request by South Orange asks the New Jersey Superior Court to appoint an overseer with access to EOWC’s records as it pertains to South Orange. It also asks that the overseer be paid for by EOWC, as well as any attorney costs accrued by South Orange.
Patch will have more on this story as it develops.