MILLTOWN, NJ—Boro officials may not being trying very hard to get the word out, but representatives of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be present at a meeting in Milltown’s Boro Hall to address serious violations committed by the New Brunswick Water Utility.
Boro Hall is located at 39 Washington Avenue, located off of Main Street in Milltown. The meeting is open to the general public and has been characterized as an opportunity to have questions answered.
Milltown, a small community of 7,000 residents, purchases water in bulk from the New Brunswick Water Utility, which was recently accused by DEP of falsifying records to cover up problems with water quality from 2010 to 2013.
As we reported in November, the city admitted to lying about the quality of water being consumed by residents in both communities, and neighboring Franklin Township.
At least six times since 2010, residents should have been told to boil their water but were not.
New Brunswick residents and businesses were notified via US Mail in November, Franklin sent a similar notice in December, but it wasn’t until January 14 that Milltown followed suit.
However, when the announcement was made to the boro’s residents, Milltown officials promised something that New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill did not.
“A public meeting will be conducted in early 2014 to review the issues outlined in this Public Notice and answer any questions,” read the January notice mailed to Milltown residents and businesses only.
“You will be advised of the place, date and time of this meeting in the near future.”
Conversely, New Brunswick officials hesitated at the prospect of a public meeting to discuss the water problems.
“I dont know that a public forum to get all the truths of it is necessary,” Mayor Cahill told New Brunswick Today in December. “I’m not sure what it really adds to the equation.”
Nevertheless, despite booking the meeting, it’s not immediately clear what efforts Milltown officials took to notify the Boro’s water consumers that it would be happening.
Milltown has not used its Nixle alert system, which is advertised on the sign in front of Boro Hall, to notify the public of the meeting. Last month alone, the same online system was used to notify Milltown residents of school safety drills, a tornado watch, the cancellation of curbside garbage pickup during a storm, and a water main break.
The only official sign of the public meeting visible on the internet is a link posted on the Boro’s website vaguely titled, “NJDEP Meeting – March 3rd @ 7 PM @ Borough Hall.” Users who click the link are taken to an unrelated document.
But according to an email from the Lawrence Brook Watershed Association, a non-profit group that fights for environmental causes in the area, “New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ-DEP) representatives will be present to discuss the water quality issues which were of concern in the past couple of years.”
Edward O’Rourke, 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. O’Rouke’s contract with Milltown was not renewed last fall, but he remains suspended without pay for his job with the City of New Brunswick, pending an administrative hearing.
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.