New Brunswick Water Utility Hires Same Man Brought in After East Orange Water Quality Coverup

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A new person is supervising New Brunswick's water treatment plant this week, for the first time since a major water quality cover-up became public last month.

Keith Smith, licensed operator #511130, has officially taken on the duties of the new position as of Monday.  Since June, when the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) began investigating a cover-up, Water Director Frank Marascia had been the licensed operator of record.

According to DEP records, Smith took over as a licensed operator of a  public water system based in the City of East Orange on February 28.  That change came just 15 days after the Attorney General's office announced two top officials had been indicted for covering up water quality problems in the system.

Smith said he is currently still working part-time for the East Orange Water Commission, which provides water to East Orange and South Orange.

"East Orange is a part-time position that's probably going away. I have to dedicate my time to New Brunswick."

Since 2011, Smith has also been the licensed operator of record for the water system at Picatinny Arsenal, a military installation in Morris County, but he says he no longer serves in that role.

New Brunswick's Business Administrator and Water Director did not respond to requests for information about new hires at the treatment plant.  But Smith picked up the phone at his new job and told New Brunswick Today he hopes "to accomplish getting the New Brunswick water system in compliance with the DEP and getting it on the right track."

City officials have announced a slew of changes in the management of the treatment plant since the DEP made public the violations last month.

"We are bringing in a new T4 and W4 licensed operator," announced Business Administrator Thomas Loughlin at the December 4 City Council meeting, under questioning from New Brunswick Today.

"He's going to be given the title of 'Water Treatment Plant Superintendent.'  It's a title we hadn't previously used."

Loughlin confirmed the new official will "be responsible for managing the plant in its entirety: water quality, maintenance, operational issues, testing, sampling, reporting to DEP."

At the prior council meeting, the officials voted unaimously to approve a law creating a new position with a salary range of $46,000-$96,800.  It is unclear how much Smith's starting salary at New Brunswick.

The ordinance passed on November 20 also deleted a job title with the same salary range as the new superintendent position.  The old position was called "Chief pumping station operator."  It also added another water-related position: "Supervising Water Treatment Plant Operator," with a salary range of $35,000-$80,000.

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Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.