South Orange to Hold Meeting on Water Contract Sept. 15

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The Township of South Orange Village is hosting a Community Meeting to discuss the village’s relationship with the East Orange Water Commission on Monday, September 15, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at the South Orange Performing Arts Center.

At the meeting, village officials, staff and professionals will present a brief history of the village’s contractual relationship with the EOWC, the current status of that contract, the village’s efforts to research and identify alternative water sources, and the recommended course of action that the village is actively pursuing. 

At the conclusion of the presentation, the panel will answer questions from residents concerning the matters presented at the meeting.

In advance of the meeting, South Orange village has prepared documents for residents to review. A link to the documents can be found on the South Orange News page on the village website. They include a list of frequently asked questions, a history/summary of the EOWC relationship, and an agenda for the September 15 meeting.

South Orange residents and officials have had serious concerns about water quality for years.

In March 2011, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection cited South Orange’s water vendor East Orange Water Company for exceeding the allowable concentration of one volatile organic compound tetrachloroethylene (PCE), in drinking water distributed by EOWC.

The village responded by filing suit against EOWC for water quality and service issues.

Then, in February 2013, two top EOWC officials were charged with manipulating water test results. DEP officials visited South Orange in March 2013 to assure local officials and residents that EOWC water was at safe levels for all contaminants. Yesterday, one of the EWOC officials charged with manipulation plead guilty (the other is deceased).

In the years since 2011, South Orange has responded by continuing legal action against EOWC and by keeping a close eye on contamination levels — posting water quality testing and reports on the village website.

The Board of Trustees formed a working group to negotiate on behalf of the village regarding the water situation. The working group is currently made up of Village Administrator Barry Lewis, Village Counsel Steven Rother, and Trustees Howard Levison and Walter Clarke.

In July, Clarke explained that the South Orange working group is moving ahead looking at alternative solutions once the village’s contract with EOWC expires at the end of 2016.

“It seems like a long time away,” said Clarke, “but because we are talking about water and infrastructure, it’s really not.”

A “frontrunner” for taking over as supplier to South Orange is NJ American Water. NJ American Water also supplies West Orange and Maplewood.

To read the full interview with Clarke, visit here.

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