July 19, 2018 | ° F

Residents probe city's stance on sewage pump repairs

Photo by Colleen Roache |

The New Brunswick City Council responds to residents' questions last night in City Hall about repairs to a sewage pump in Buccleuch Park, which could damage the city's water supply.

Talk of repairs to a sewage pump in Buccleuch Park dominated last night's New Brunswick City Council meeting.

Mechanical elements of the pump, which have been a point of discussion among those in the city for several weeks, are in need of repair and pose a threat to the city's water supply, said City Administrator Thomas Loughlin at an Oct. 7 meeting. More than 30 minutes of the hour-long meeting were devoted to the topic.

But Huntington Street resident Bruce Newling is not satisfied that the council is taking the proper course of action regarding the matter, a sentiment he expressed last night.

"I'm not seeking to filibuster. I'm seeking to inform," Newling said. "And I think that in light of the fact that the FBI raided the election offices on Tuesday morning … it would be prudent for the council to be as well-informed as possible."

Newling said common sense would lead any reasonable person to question the council's move.

"I'm a professional geographer. I have a Ph.D. … [But] anybody in this room … who has any familiarity with the law of gravity and the way water flows would see that it's impossible for sewage to get into the water supply," he said.

Newling accused the council of using a "scare tactic" as a means of convincing the people of New Brunswick that its manner of executing the repairs is necessary and said he believes only a "tsunami" of sewage would threaten the city.

"The city of New Brunswick is either willfully misrepresenting facts in the presentation of its application to the Green Acres program, or it has not exercised due diligence in the gathering of information," he said.

The council must provide concrete evidence that the pump must be repaired, he said.

"Unless you can demonstrate that there is … a clear and present danger, you have absolutely no business to authorize the start of work," Newling said.

After hearing Newling's objections, City Council President Elizabeth Sheehan Garlatti continued to stress the need for the repair.

"I appreciate the fact that Mr. Newling is concerned about the entire process and has given us more detail about this project than we ever could hope, need or want," Garlatti said. "But it doesn't necessarily mean that we don't need to do this."

Like Newling, Charles Renda, also a resident of New Brunswick, said he would agree with the council's considerations only if convincing evidence was available.

"I've been very impressed with the amount of knowledge we've brought out," Renda said. "But I still have yet to hear anyone say to me that if we don't repair this — and as engineer, as a professional — I certify that the water system is in imminent danger of being polluted."

Garlatti likened the city's situation to one a homeowner faces when a house needs repair.

"I'm not an engineer, and I don't play one on TV," Garlatti said. "But I own a house. In that house, there is a furnace, [which] was installed in that house in the 1930s. [When the furnace] broke, emergency repair wasn't an option. We're kind of at this point with the sewer station."

Still, Renda said the two situations are not comparable.

"Your furnace going out … was not going to freeze your neighbors. It was not going to paralyze the city with cold through the winter heating season," he said. "That was your property and your property only."

Newling suggested the city move the site of the facility to either the property of the University or that of the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

But Garlatti said it is unlikely that would occur.

"Rutgers, as generous as it's been to the city of New Brunswick over the years, isn't inclined to give us stuff and the state Department of Transportation hasn't been very receptive to requests," Garlatti said. "They're not free."

Hamilton said the city is required to hold a public hearing prior to beginning work on the project, and New Brunswick residents will then have the opportunity to further voice their opinions.

"I certainly think it would be inappropriate to go through a cross-examination at this time, in advance of that hearing," he said.

Colleen Roache

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