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MILLTOWN, NJ—This tiny town of 7,000 drinks water produced by New Brunswick’s embattled Water Utility, but Milltown’s residents have been in the dark about serious problems with the water quality that were covered up.
But now the Boro’s residents have been formally notified of the water quality violations, which were announced by the state government on November 14. New Brunswick Today was the first to break the story.
Boro residents confirmed the mailed notices were received on January 14, despite being dated December 30. Similar to Franklin Township’s notice sent out on December 10, the mailing includes a brief cover letter, and the entirety of New Brunswick’s required public notification issued on November 27.
The notice makes it clear that six times between 2010 and 2013, New Brunswick failed to notify the public, including customers in Milltown and Franklin, that they should be boiling their water due to unacceptable problems with cloudiness.
The Milltown notice also promises something that New Brunswick officials have yet to commit to: a public meeting to discuss the serious water quality violations.
“A public meeting will be conducted in early 2014 to review the issues outlined in this Public Notice and answer any questions,” reads the notice. “You will be advised of the place, date and time of this meeting in the near future.”
“I dont know that a public forum to get all the truths of it is necessary,” he told New Brunswick Today in December. “I’m not sure what it really adds to the equation.”
An employee at New Brunswick’s water treatment plant was suspended for the violations, but he was also on the payroll on Milltown in a similar capacity.
Edward O’Rourke, a resident of Brick Township, was fined $17,000 by the Department of Environmental Protection for intentionally filing falsified reports. His license was also suspended for five years.
O’Rourke was hired by New Brunswick Water Utility in 1976. In December 1998, he took a second job in Milltown.
“Ed O’Rourke was first appointed on December 28, 1998 at the rate of $500.00 per month,” said Milltown’s Business Administrator Denise Biancamano.
“He has been reappointed at the Council Reorganization meeting each year since then. The rate was changed to $625.00 per month starting January 2007 through 2013.”
For one year, 2011, O’Rourke also worked for Franklin Township’s water system, which buys water from multiple sources including New Brunswick. Franklin replaced him the following year.
New Brunswick suspended O’Rourke in October, as did Milltown.
According to the official records, the Milltown Boro Council approved a final $625 payment made on November 8 to O’Rourke for his services in October.
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, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.