MOORESTOWN – Vickie Robertson has had a growing concern for years about a “water problem” in town.
Robertson isn’t alone.
The life-long Moorestown resident was among those who attended Monday’s Town Council meeting for a special workshop providing an overview of the water, sewer and public works department, including future plans.
A presentation by a township utility director and an engineer included plans to replace multiple water mains throughout town and upgrade several water treatment plant systems – such as the closed Hartford Road plant and the Kings Highway plant – and address the presence of an unregulated contaminant.
Robertson is concerned about the water quality, particularly with the discoloration of the water in her home. Several residents told council they have brown drinking water; one man, resident Michael Babcock, brought a container half-filled with brown water and placed it on a table at the meeting.
“Trucks come up and deliver water to people in my neighborhood for drinking water,” Robertson said. “It’s been going on for a long time. I’m sure it’s primarily in the older areas of town but it’s been an ongoing problem.
“I’m concerned about all of it. I just don’t understand why. I use a Brita filter. We have filters on the stuff coming into our house. I’m sorry. I’m not reassured by them saying, ‘Oh it’s just (iron).’ They haven’t inspected every neighborhood in Moorestown to see what’s in the pipes.”
The township is currently using one of two contaminated water wells and is looking at multimillion-dollar improvements and reconstruction to bring water treatment plants up to date, according to a report by an engineer the township hired.
Two wells at the North Church Street treatment plant were closed a year ago on recommendation from the state Department of Environmental Protection because of the presence of 1, 2 and 3-trichloropropane, or TCP.
TCP is a man-made substance used for paint removal and other purposes and has been classified a “likely” carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Officials said a June reading showed no detectable TCP level in well No. 7, so the township reopened it to pumping. They kept it open after a July reading revealed TCP levels had returned. Monthly testing since July has detected between .06 and .07 micrograms per liter of TCP.
According to township manager Scott Carew, a toxicologist hired by the township to review contamination, the TCP created no discernible health risk to the public in the time frame it will take to install permanent treatment at the North Church plant.
Babcock, the resident who brought a container of discolored water to the meeting, said while it’s great officials are working on addressing the issues now, he doesn’t understand why it has taken so long.
“What I’d like to point out, it’s great we’re doing all this, we’re going to fix these mains in the next two or three years, but I can honestly say, none of this would be happening if we didn’t have the issue with the TCP,” he said. “We had a problem with the TCP, the DEP came here and said, ‘What’s going on? You should use another water source.’ We don’t have another water source. New Jersey American Water is our other water source. Because of our contractual obligation … we’re paying a fortune.
“Why are we just starting to do this now? Why wasn’t this done five years ago?”
Carew said the problems go back many years.
“I guarantee you these discussions could’ve taken place long before the discovery of TCP,” he said in response to Babcock’s complaints. “These discussions have been occurring long before the TCP issues were even known.
“The problems with water infrastructure in this town go back decades. You’re criticizing a group of people that are finally doing something about it? We weren’t here five years ago.”
The township also purchases water from New Jersey American Water Company, on a contract until 2020, Mayor Victoria Napolitano said.
Utility director Bill Butler said the brown water is not harmful to drink.
The town intends to “start at the source and fix your problem, not at your house,” Butler said.
“I think we’d liked to see this all move along as quickly as possible,” Deputy Mayor Phil Garwood said. “That being said, we don’t want to be overzealous about it.”
Robertson is pleased officials are addressing the issues.
“I think they’re doing the right thing,” she said. “I think that they’re right; the people before let this problem get terrible and now they’re having to deal with it.”
Celeste E. Whittaker; (856) 496-2437; firstname.lastname@example.org