Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Thursday, July 16, 2020
Monday, July 13, 2020
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Friday, June 19, 2020
To those who want to better understand the NJAG's civil action against the City of Trenton and TWW....
Over the course of the last couple of years, the NJDEP and the officials of municipalities being serviced by TWW (Lawrence, Ewing, Hamilton, and Hopewell) have worked to get the water utility to meet its obligations it had agreed to under the Consent Order. To be honest, and I have said this publicly several times, TWW has done a lot to improve its management and operations to the benefit of its customers since entering into the Consent Order. However, it has missed several critical deadlines relating to infrastructure improvements, such as the replacement of lead service lines and capping the reservoir. Both of which are critical to producing clean and safe water for us to drink and use now and in the future.
What prompted the action taken by the NJAG, however, is the Trenton City Council's voting down the necessary funding ($83 million) for improvements required under the Consent Order. Without this funding, it is a complete impossibility for the water utility to do what is required for its overall improvement, and a sustained ability to deliver clean and safe water to its customers. Here is a link to the NJAG's complaint that it filed with the Court that spells out very specifically why the action was necessary:
And here is the link to the legal brief prepared by the NJAG in support of the complaint that was filed on an emergent basis to compel the Court to act quickly for the protection of us all:
For those of you who may not know, TWW is owned and operated by the City of Trenton. It provides drinking water to over 200,000 customers in Trenton and sections within the surrounding towns of Hamilton, Ewing, Hopewell and Lawrence. This is an asset for the City. The operation of the TWW creates revenue that is used by the City for its overall operations. So when Trenton City Council votes to increase water rates to the customers, and then votes "no" to spend the money all experts agree is necessary to make required improvements to deliver safe drinking water....well, that's a problem. And this is why we find ourselves where we are right now...in Court seeking a ruling to compel the City to fund the water utility so it can make the improvements that are necessary.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Residents have called to ask if they can just switch to another water utility (like you can with cable service or power service). The technical answer is "yes" but it would cost billions of dollars to do. TWW owns the water lines running under our streets that you connect to from your homes. It owns the facility at the Delaware River that processes the water, and it owns the reservoir that holds the water for our use. To get another water utility to service a portion of our community as an alternative to TWW would require a company to build a complete water utility system (facility, reservoir, water lines from the facility to the street adjacent to your home, etc.). So the realistic answer is "no" it is not practical. The fight needs to be: (1) to improve TWW; or (2) to get TWW to sell to another water company; or (3) for the State to take it over and operate it.
Here is the link to the "Final Order" filed with the complaint that very specifically explains what the NJAG is looking to the Court to achieve:
As an attorney, I really do appreciate when pleadings are well crafted. The documents prepared and filed by the NJAG are top notch in my opinion. The followings is an excerpt from the complaint (par. 3) that succinctly describes why we are where we are now:
"The Department [NJDEP] has tried diligently and repeatedly to convince Defendants [the City of Trenton and TWW] to comply with their obligations to protect consumers from lead exposure and to make other required improvements within the drinking water system. Further, the Trenton City Council recently failed to approve critical and necessary funding for many of the improvements the law demands. The Department now seeks a preliminary injunction requiring Defendants to address lead service line replacement to protect consumers, and an order to remedy their failure to protect the health and safety of their consumers."
What makes this situation so disconcerting is that the Trenton City Council has demonstrated complete dysfunction over the past couple of years in my opinion. The decisions it has made in many matters (unrelated to TWW) seem to be made for reasons other than what is in the best interests of the City and the residents. In this matter, the refusal to fund improvements to the water facility that provides water to its own residents also affects residents who live beyond its borders in surrounding towns. As a result, we cannot allow the City Council to work against the interest of providing clean and safe drinking water to us even if they don't seem to be concerned about their own residents and the water they drink and use.
I have met with Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora several times regarding TWW and its operations and plans for the future. He is absolutely committed to doing what is right and what is necessary to fix the water utility. Unfortunately, what he wants isn't enough in Trenton's form of government. Issues relating to funding fall within the authority of the City Council. If those council members are not committed to improving TWW in a meaningful manner, there is no alternative but to seek a Court Order to compel them to meet their obligations to their own residents and to the customers who reside outside of their City.
Officials from Hamilton, Ewing, Hopewell and Lawrence are meeting next week to discuss interceding in the complaint (i.e., entering the civil action as a party) to join the NJAG and to advocate for our residents. Stay tuned everyone. I will report back to as we proceed. I hope you found this helpful.
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
NJ Attorney General Requires Public Disclosure of the Identities of Officers Who Commit Serious Disciplinary Violations
Hey Everyone! On April 10, 2019 I started this blog with an article on the Pit Stop. To refresh your memory, you may read the article again...