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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 10, 2006

Contact: Darlene Yuhas (609) 984-1795
Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994

DEP FINES WATER SYSTEMS, LICENSED OPERATORS
FOR FRAUDULENT MONITORING AND REPORTING

(06/35) TRENTON -- Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today announced that two public water suppliers and four water-system operators face heavy fines and license suspensions for failing to accurately monitor drinking-water quality, manipulating equipment to skew test results and falsifying reports.

"Without accurate, reliable and timely water-quality data, our ability to protect the safety of the public's drinking water is seriously compromised," Commissioner Jackson said. "The failures and fraud we uncovered highlight once again the vital role DEP plays in investigating late, deficient and inaccurate reporting and strengthens our resolve to take tough action if water-system data or operations in any way fall short of state and federal safe-drinking water laws."

In its enforcement actions, the DEP issued penalties to the Strawberry Point Homeowners Association in Byram Township, Sussex County, and its former operator, William H. Horton; the Roxbury Water Company in Roxbury Township, Morris County, and its operator and president, John F. Hosking; and two former United Water Toms River managers, George J. Flegal and Richard Ottens.

"We license New Jersey's water-system operators to perform an essential public service," Commissioner Jackson said. "Our investigations showed these operators shirked their fundamental responsibilities under the law. Equally regrettable, by deliberately distorting data, they violated the public's trust."

In the Strawberry Point case, officials with the DEP's Water Compliance and Enforcement and its Safe Drinking Water programs reviewed monthly operating reports Horton submitted from January through May 2005. All of the reports showed identical daily chlorine residual measurements, required to prevent bacterial aftergrowth, prompting DEP inspectors to question the data's veracity. Though Horton had signed and certified the reports as accurate, he admitted to DEP inspectors that he did not conduct the mandatory, daily chlorine residual analysis.

The DEP fined Horton $16,000 and ordered a two-year suspension of his operator license for violating the state's Water and Wastewater Operators Licensing Act by submitting false and inaccurate data to the DEP. The Strawberry Point Homeowners Association received a $1,000 penalty for failing to conduct water-quality monitoring required under New Jersey's Safe Drinking Water Act.

DEP inspectors uncovered similar violations at Roxbury Water Company. From July through December 2004, Hosking, president of the privately owned water company and its operator, filed with the DEP monthly operating reports that consistently documented the same daily chlorine residual measurements. In February 2005, the DEP's Bureau of Safe Drinking Water launched an investigation and collected chlorine residual samples at three points within the water-supply system. The sampling revealed inadequate chlorine residual concentrations in the distribution system.

Hosking received a notice of violation on March 1 for failing to outline in an operation-and-maintenance manual the standard operating procedures for collecting and analyzing daily chlorine residual monitoring and failing to properly operate and maintain chlorine analysis equipment.

The Roxbury Water Company received a $5,000 penalty; Hosking faces a $24,000 fine and a two-year license suspension.

At United Water Toms River, the DEP determined drinking-water sources were manipulated so compliance sampling would conceal actual water quality. Specifically, in September 2005, Flegal and Ottens both shut down the system's Well No. 35 before a scheduled compliance sampling for radionuclides because they apparently believed that high levels in that water source would trigger an exceedance of the maximum contaminant level for radionuclides. The water system had previously exceeded the maximum contaminant level for radionuclides, and last February, the DEP fined United Water Toms River $64,000 for failing to provide timely notification to the DEP and to notify the public.

Flegal, a former general manager at United Water Toms River, and Ottens, the system's former operations manager, were fined $5,000 each and also face two-year license suspensions.

Under the New Jersey Water and Wastewater Operators Licensing Act, every public water system must employ a DEP-licensed operator. In addition to licensing, the DEP, an appointed licensing board and an advisory committee develop training courses with Cook College and establish continuing education requirements and performance standards to ensure qualified, experienced people are operating New Jersey's public utilities.

Both the water systems and the licensed operators can appeal the penalties and suspensions before a judge in the Office of Administrative Law.

 

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Last Updated: May 10, 2006