Local residents bring water quality concerns to city council

<p>Charlie Kratovil, a New Brunswick Today editor, asks about improvements to water pumps.</p>

Charlie Kratovil, a New Brunswick Today editor, asks about improvements to water pumps.

Concerned residents came to the New Brunswick City Council meeting last night to discuss recent revelations about water quality in the area.

The meeting room, located in City Hall on Bayard Street, was packed with residents.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection alleged earlier in November that the New Brunswick Water Department had been filing false data and submitting incorrectly calculated test results, according to an article previously published in The Daily Targum.

Charlie Kratovil, editor of New Brunswick Today, asked the council what improvements would be made to the water pumps and how long the city experienced problems with the pumps.

Thomas Loughlin, the city’s administrator, said they had determined the mechanical equipment needed an upgrade, as it was already 60 years old.

Loughlin said despite concerns about current water quality, the water being produced was clean drinking water. But pumps manually clean the water now, whereas the city soon hopes to have a mechanical system.

“At the end of the day the idea is to have fully modernized, refurbished pump stations,” he said.

The city started that process a year ago, when they changed the electrical facilities at both pump stations, he said.

The second phase of the project includes replacement of the pumps and motors, he said. They would also refurbish the traveling screen at each location, which filters water as it comes to the pump station.

Kratovil said he is still concerned about the future of the water quality issue, considering that Mayor Jim Cahill was not present at many city council meetings.

“I think this is a serious issue, and the council and the mayor need to show more leadership and have better communication with the public,” he said.

Kratovil suggested the launch of a public forum where citizens and officials could come together to address issues within the city.

Council President Rebecca Escobar responded, saying she was not opposed to the idea.  

On a separate issue, New Brunswick resident Danielle Moore questioned the efforts of the New Brunswick Police Department to reduce drunk driving.

“The Police Department should let the city know that they are taking it seriously to not let another innocent victim to get hurt,” she said.

Escobar said the problem is universal to all cities, and that it is a challenge to address.

“The duty is to look and see that there is safety in the area, especially for the drivers,” she said.

Moore said she was also concerned about a series of fires that had recently occurred in the city. She asked the council whether an arsonist was a possible cause of the fires.

Robert Rawls, director of the New Brunswick Fire Department, said the department had not determined the fires to be caused by arson.

“We are leaning more toward the fact that because those are vacant homes without electricity, it becomes prime real estate for squatters this time of year when it’s cold,” he said. “They have to light fires in the house to keep warm. It appears to be that type of damage.”

Moore asked the department how the one original fire had caused a significant amount of damage to a nearby home as well.

Rawls said the first fire was an accidental incident caused by an electrical issue.

“The fire that spread from 326 Suydam St. to 51 Railroad Ave., is called radiant heat,” Rawls said. “The fire was so big, there was so much heat with flames 30 feet in the air, that it starts to melt the houses around it. The second fire that started was from the original fire.” 

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