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Bordentown City officials update residents on efforts combating lead issue at public forum - centraljersey.com

Bordentown City officials update residents on efforts combating lead issue at public forum


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Sitting before a room of concerned residents, Bordentown City officials held a public forum on Jan. 29 to provide updates on their most recent efforts and progress in addressing multiple reports of high lead levels in some homeowners’ drinking water.

The forum, held at the Carslake Community Center, was organized following a forum in October when city officials said they were committed to continuous testing and gathering data as well as conducting recent digs in the area, and the installment of new equipment at the city’s water treatment facility.

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For Bordentown City Commissioner Joe Myers, the forum’s main intent was to ensure residents were aware of the issue and that the municipality was closely monitoring the situation.

“There is nothing more important to the mayor, the deputy mayor and myself than the health and safety of the citizens in the city and the township – the citizens we are serving,” Myers said. “Over the past 18 months, our job is to be transparent and communicative as possible and make sure that as we get information, we share it with everyone. At the same time, [we want to] make sure that we are collecting and looking at the data that will inform us of what we think we’ve been doing and the progress we’ve made to date.”

Although reports of lead exceedances in multiple Bordentown homes has been ongoing for over a year when the issue first arose in 2017, city officials have been working to address this problem, but are yet to determine the main cause of the problem.

Multiple tests conducted at the city’s main water source and water treatment plant, were reported by city officials with “non-detectable” lead levels, and to date, eight digs have been conducted in the area to test the city’s water lines, which have all been reported as non-lead service lines with non-detectable readings as well.

As the search for the main cause of the reported lead issue within residences has the municipality and some homeowners turning their focuses to the fixtures of homes as a possible suspect, Myers said that the municipality has gathered data from voluntary tests on behalf of many Bordentown residents as well as sate mandated samples that were taken.

Myers dedicated a portion of the forum to reviewing and discussing the most recent compiled data results at the forum.

“While we’re doing this testing at the state sampling plan mandates, we’ve also offered free testing to anyone that has been interested,” he said. “Over the past 13 months, we’ve done about 199 sampling, which has been voluntary that the city has paid for, but those 199 instances are when people approach us and ask us to test their water.”

In addition to 210 samples the city took over the course of 18 months, with the oversight of the state, the municipality has compiled more than 400 samples total.

“In 2017, we took sampling of 74 homes and out of that, we had 18 occurrences of an exceedance, which adds to about 22 percent of the samples we had of an exceedance, which is when the state came back and said, ‘You are over the threshold,’ which is about a 10 percentile,” Myers said. “In that instance, if you have an exceedance, then you have to develop a corrective action plan to adjust it, which educates people and lets them know what’s going on.”

City officials said that out of those 74 samples, 34 samples had a below-detectable reading. Also, in the first half of 2018, the city took 63 samples with 11 homes having been reported with an exceedance while 26 homes had a below-detectable reading.

In the second half of 2018, city officials said that 73 samples were taken in which nine homes were reported to have an exceedance while 44 homes had a non-detectable reading.

Along with the free sampling the city did in 2018, 199 samples were taken with 36 homes having been reported with an exceedance while 125 homes had a non-detectable reading

Given that the data suggests homes with reported exceedances have down while homes with non-detectable readings have risen, Myers was quick to point to the progressive efforts the city has taken, particularly at its water treatment plant, to accredit this “positive news.”

“The feedback we’ve been getting from our engineers is that one reason for that shift in numbers is because of the investment the city has made in in the water [treatment] plant to the equipment and the addition of a product called orthophosphates,” he said. “Also, the electronic equipment of adjusting some of the pH levels in the plant that have been upgraded this past Fall, which we believe contributes to those numbers starting to change.”

Although the data is promising evidence for the municipality that the issue is not potentially linked to the city’s water source or its utilities, Myers noted that there’s still more data and research to be compiled.

“I want to be cautious to say that there’s still a lot of work that we have to do as commissioners, but I certainly think that this is progress,” he said. “These are the facts. This is the data that we have.”

As the city officials followed up on the information regarding the samples taken over the past several years, they presented a map of Bordentown with a dot corresponding to each individual reported lead exceedance.  Myers said the intent of this map was to see if there were “clusters” of lead exceedances on a specific street or in particular neighborhood.

Given the reported occurrences via their representation on the map, city officials said they could not identify a cluster or particular area for a possible lead exceedance. Rather, Myers suggested the map further linked the potential lead exceedances to separate residences.

“The other takeaway is that [the reported exceedances] are individual instances meaning that each home has an individual story,” he said.

As the city continues to conduct further testing as well as gather more samples and data, Myers said that individual homes with reported exceedances will be paid close attention to for further testing and potential digs.

“What we’re looking to do going forward is collect some of these samples because some of the samples that were taken most recently in the second half of 2018, there was an exceedance, and it is our responsibility to go into the home and take a second test,” Myers said. “As part of that, we’re also looking at homes that had a reoccurrence of an exceedance.  If a home had an exceedance in 2017 and 2018, those are the homes that we’re going to be digging out in front of.”

For residents with questions and concerns with their water, city officials encourage residents to contact Myers at 609-556-7837.

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