If you live in East Orange or South Orange New Jersey, you may want to start drinking bottled water, the water coming out of your faucets has been contaminated and was done with the knowledge and on purpose by two top officials of the East Orange Water Commission (EOWC) according to indictments that were handed down and announced by the State Attorney General’s office on Feb. 13, 2013.
The indictments allege Harry L. Mansmann, 58, of Lawrenceville, executive director of the EOWC, and William Mowell, 51, of Wyckoff, the assistant executive director and engineer for the EOWC, with conspiracy, multiple counts of official misconduct, pattern of official misconduct, unlawful release of a toxic pollutant, multiple counts of violating the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act, violating the New Jersey Water Pollution Control Act and tampering with public records or information. These are a mix of second and third degree crimes.
Mansmann and Mowell allegedly conspired to falsify mandatory testing of the EOWC’s water supply to hide elevated levels of the contaminant tetrachlorethene (PERC), an industrial solvent used for dry cleaning and other purposes which is classified as a probable carcinogen.
Mansmann and Mowell allegedly directed that the contaminated wells be turned off several days prior to taking samples for testing and then turned back on for pumping to the reservoir after sampling. In this manner, they allegedly falsified test results to comply with the DEP requirement.
“It is absolutely unconscionable that the two top directors responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of drinking water supplied to tens of thousands of residents in East Orange and South Orange would deliberately manipulate sampling to hide the fact that the water supply contained elevated levels of a contaminant, as is alleged in this indictment,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “These defendants rightfully face serious criminal charges.”
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The third-degree counts of violation of the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act carry potential additional fines of $5,000 to $50,000 for each day that the violation occurred, and the count of third-degree violation of the New Jersey Water Pollution Control Act carries potential additional fines of $5,000 to $75,000 for each day that the violation occurred.