Friday, October 29, 2010

Spin control?

The following was sent out from City Hall shortly after 12 noon today:

Honorable Mayor Tony F. Mack
319 East State Street
Trenton, NJ 08608

For Immediate Release:                                                                                            Contact: Lauren J. Ira
October 29, 2010                                                                                                    Office: 609-989-3052
                                                                                                                                Mobile: 609-741-7322

City of Trenton Requires Criminal History Checks for all Non-Uniform Employees

TRENTON—Mayor Tony Mack issued the following statement regarding the requirement of criminal history checks for all non-uniform employees. Mayor Mack stated the following:

“Compliance with City of Trenton criminal history checks is vital to protect our residents and the public. Our stringent requirements mandate all non-uniform City of Trenton employees adhere to a criminal history check regardless of their status or role within the administration.

Judge Renee Lamarre Sumners understands the importance of complying with all of the necessary procedures and mandates. Judge Sumners assured me that all recent matters were resolved expeditiously.

The administration remains confident in Judge Sumners’ ability to preside based on her expertise, discipline, and training as a public officer authorized in the court of law by the State of New Jersey,” concluded Mayor Mack.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Now read this

This advertisement appeared in the Times (of Trenton), page A5, Saturday, October 16, 2010.

We here at the Front Stoop found it interesting.  The ad is a public notice from New Jersey American Water (NJAW) that they exceeded a drinking water standard.

According to the ad, during routine cleaning of a settlement basin, sediment was stirred up and entered the water system and overburdened the filters of the system.  This caused turbid water in excess of the 1 NTU standard to enter the distribution system of water that Aqua New Jersey purchases from NJAW or it's Lawrenceville customers.  The incident occurred on Thursday, September 23, 2010.

The ad goes on as follows:

What does this mean?
This is not an emergency.  I it had been you would have been notified within 24 hours.  Turbidity is not harmful in itself.  High turbidity increases the chance that water might contain disease-causing organisms.

What should I do?
You do not need to boil your water or take other corrective actions.

So what we want to know is this:

If the incident above is being treated as a non-emergency and notification wasn't required within 24 hours and boiling water wasn't required, what really happened at the Trenton Water Works (TWW) between October 2 and October 8 that made the City of Trenton and the DEP issue "boil water advisories" repeatedly from the 4th through the 7th?  

Doesn't it seem likely that the situation with the TWW was somewhat more serious than the NJAW event of September 24?  But the city has repeatedly told us there was no risk and that there was no evidence of contamination. At the same time, we were continually advised to boil water and, if our water temperature was lower than 113 degrees Fahrenheit to drain, flush and refill our hot water tanks.  And why haven't the results of the water tests conducted between October 3 and October 7 been made public?

We don't consider ourselves prone to conspiracy theories but there certainly seems to be more to the story than the Mack administration AND New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection have so far let on.

Our water is running clear now, how about our government officials come clean.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Water under the bridge

Here's a look back at the water crisis of June 2006 as reported in the Times:



Published: July 9, 2006

Joe McIntyre's stomach was churning.

He was on his cell phone, getting a progress report on the Trenton Water Works' reservoir, and the news was disturbing.

Water in the city's reservoir had begun to whirlpool around the main pipe that feeds the system, much as water emptying from a tub will swirl around a drain.

It was less than 48 hours after Water Works employees shut down the filtration plant to keep the roiling Delaware, engorged by rains and cresting its banks, from fouling the system. What the vortexing water meant to McIntyre, the Water Works chief, was that the reservoir that supplies water to some 210,000 people in five towns was dangerously close to empty.

The inspection on the morning of June 30 was the culmination of two days of frantic maneuvering by the city's water department to keep Trenton's taps from running dry.

While residents fled the Island and Glen Afton neighborhoods to avoid the rising river and floodwaters poured into river towns in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, causing nearly $8 million in damage in Mercer County alone, city employees were locked in the Water Works plant, hoping to squeeze every last drop from the beleaguered system.

And while the crisis that could have left the Water Works' customers without drinking water for weeks was averted, officials say there is little that can be done to fortify the system against future shutdowns.

An upgrade to the system, planned to begin later this year, will help, officials say, but ultimately, the river is the boss.

The crisis began at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, June 28.

McIntyre, the Water Works chief, reported to the filtration plant to find the Delaware agitated into a tempest by stormwater that began pouring into the river the day before.

Testing showed that the water, which is sucked from the river each day to supply the city and surrounding areas, was dangerously muddy. McIntyre had two choices.

He could shut down the system, ceasing all filtration until the river returned to normal and force the city to rely on the 2-day supply stored in the reservoir. Or he could wait and continue filtering the silt-filled water and risk fouling the system, forcing a prolonged shutdown and a hardship for tens of thousands of customers.

Neither option sounded good, but McIntyre chose the riskier route.

"We decided to shut the plant down," the water department chief said in an interview last week about the near catastrophe. "It was nerve-wracking, and it required us to live at the plant for a couple of days to monitor the water, but the alternative was to be more conservative and risk losing the system longer term." 'THE CLOCK BEGAN TO TICK'The system's demand for water runs about 30 million gallons per day. The reservoir is continually replenished by water, sucked from the Delaware and chemically filtered to create what's known in water-supply circles as a floc - a clump of particles that settles to the bottom and is removed from the liquid.

At full capacity, the plant can filter as much as 40 million gallons per day, easily keeping up with the demand.

But when McIntyre threw the switch to shut down the plant, "the clock began to tick."

"From that point we began monitoring how long we were off-line and how that correlated to the amount of water left in the reservoir," he said.

Alerts went out to residents to begin conserving water, and Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer put in a call to Gov. Jon Corzine, beseeching the state's top executive to close down the dozens of state offices located in the city and send thousands of workers home. The governor's action saved more than 3 million gallons for each of the two days the offices were closed.

"Had the governor not closed the state, we would have been in trouble," Palmer said. "He understood the seriousness of the situation, but if he didn't, I think we might have run out of water." HOPEFUL SIGNSMcIntyre's gamble began to look like it might pay off, when at 10 p.m. on June 29 testing showed the water was calming and the amount of silt - or turbidity - began to decrease. The employees, many of whom had not left the plant since the shutdown the morning of June 28, began to feel optimistic that the crisis might be over.

But it was not to be.

"Right after that, we had a spike again," McIntyre said. "It was frustrating because we had begun to get in the mind-set that we would get it running again earlier in the day, but we couldn't."

After the Friday morning inspection of the reservoir, McIntyre knew time had run out. If the water could not be properly filtered and the reservoir ran dry, officials would have no choice but to pump dirty water into the system.

Once that decision is made, McIntyre said, there is no turning back.

"Once you pump in substandard water, the plant will need to be cleaned and that could take several days," he said. "It creates a real hardship for customers for a number of weeks while the system is cleaned."

Finally, with no time left, McIntyre made the decision to fire up the plant. The turbidity was decreasing - though not as fast as he would have liked - and the reservoir was nearly dry.

By 3:40 p.m. June 30, the system was up and running, and employees were running dozens of tests to see if the water could be purified enough for drinking without first boiling it to kill any residual bacteria.

By 10 p.m., the crisis was over as the system began to meet the demands of its customers. Only Ewing was adversely affected when pressure dropped in three areas. A boil-water advisory went out for parts of the township but has since been lifted. PLANNING FOR THE FUTURECity officials say they have learned from the near calamity and are using the knowledge to try to ensure there is no future disaster. The plant is in line for some $50 million in renovations later this year, which Palmer said will modernize the system and make it more efficient as well as increase the amount of water that can be filtered each day.

The city is also negotiating with other providers to increase the amount of water that can be supplied in the event of a crisis.

But to some extent, the city is at the mercy of the river's moods.

"We deal with whatever the river hands us," McIntyre said. "We don't have the power to change the characteristic of the river, so we have to adapt and deal with whatever it throws at us. Sometimes you can do that with effectiveness and sometimes you can't."

For McIntyre, it was too close for comfort. The water dropped to a level not seen since 1975, when a malfunction caused the filtration plant to flood and damaged the pumps.

"We stretched the line as far as we can go," he said. "It was very close. The reservoir level was down to spots where no one that I have dealt with here has ever seen."

What the future holds is anyone's guess, experts say. Upriver development has destroyed wetlands and forests and left nowhere for runoff to go, said Bob Molzahn, president of the Water Resources Association of the Delaware Basin. Several bad storms have highlighted the problems as well, he said.

"What's the solution?" he asked. "I don't know, but you wonder if it might not get worse."


Copyright, 2006, The Times, Trenton N.J. All Rights Reserved.