By Walter Elliott
BLOOMFIELD - The Township of Bloomfield's Health Department may have received another shipment of PUR water filters and pitchers at their office, for free residential distribution, when you read this.
The department handed out an initial batch of 100 water faucet filters - the same make and model Newark had been giving out to its residents since October - since Nov. 26.
"These PUR filters are shipped very quickly," said Business Administrator Matthew Watkins at the Township Council's Nov. 19 meeting. "More can be ordered as demand is demonstrated."
Mayor Michael Venezia, at the council's Nov. 25 meeting, added that the filters can be received from its vendor "in two or three days."
Watkins and Venezia revealed results of a January - June 2018 test here as per New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection procedure. Municipal residents must be informed of test results when 10 percent of test site readings register in excess of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's 15 parts per billion of lead per liter of water "actionable" level.
That 10 percent threshold prompted the DEP to issue a violation to Bloomfield and for Bloomfield officials to notify the public.
The 2017-18 test of 61 homes found readings above 15 ppb in 16 of those homes. How many ppbs and the wards/neighborhoods locations of those homes were not disclosed Nov. 21.
Both the mayor and business administrator said that the lead was not coming from the township's water mains, which are connected to the Newark Water Supply system. Bloomfield, like several other towns in and beyond "Local Talk," buys water from Newark in bulk quantities.
Bloomfield gets its bulk water from Newark's Pequannock Reservoir and treatment plant. Belleville, Nutley and, to a limited extent, East Orange, are also among Newark's clients.
Venezia and Watkins have said that the lead was usually from the homes' own plumbing and fixtures or from the service lines connecting them to the municipal mains.
"We have no traces of lead through our pipes in the township water," said Venezia Nov. 25. "When homeowners (readings) fail, we tell them what they must do to get rid of lead in their water. In most cases, all they have to do is run water for 30 seconds to a minute (before using)."
Township officials went with PUR, the same company who has been supplying its filters and pitchers to affected Newark residence since October. Bloomfield, like Newark, touted the company's activated carbon filters removing "99.9 percent of lead found in water and reduce the level of Chlorine by-products."
Newark officials, after receiving its actionable test results in August, had been making free filters and pitchers available to up to 40,000 affected residents. Many of those residents have either lead service lines and/or fittings that need to be replaced.
Newark's 40,000 is a fraction of its 270,000 population. Bloomfield is home to 51,000 residents. Bloomfield's 16 excessive lead levels is a fraction of the readings made in Newark.
Bloomfield, like Newark, is also trying to reign in elevated haloacetic acid levels whose readings came out later October-early November. Haloacetic acid is a byproduct of treating water with chlorine.
It is not known whether Newark's practice of adding sodium silicate at its treatment plants to line lead pipes 1997-2017 has helped its water clients. The EPA told Newark that sodium silicate has become ineffective in 2017.
Township officials, while looking over Newark's shoulder, decided that filter and pitcher distribution was also the right first step.
If you're asking for a filter, that means you're concerned about the lead buildup in older homes in our community," said Watkins. "Everyone's concerned about these issues and we have a program for testing lead levels, but we've a shortage of volunteers willing to participate."
Newark has also launched a lead service line replacement program for participating home owners. That plan, to be conducted over the next three years, involves homeowners receiving a reduced charge for having the city or its contractors replace those lines.
Those 20,000 estimated LSLs in Newark are normally the responsibility of the homeowners to replace. Newark's LSL program may cost even less for its homeowners, pending what federal and state grants that city can tap into.
It is not known as of press time whether Bloomfield will offer a similar LSL replacement campaign.
The township, however, has spent some $14 million to combat lead contamination and to strengthen its water infrastructure. $4 million has been spent on replacing aging water mains.
The other $10 million is going for a water pump off East and West Passaic avenues in the Brookdale section. That underground pump will allow Bloomfield to have an interconnection with the North Jersey District Water Supply.
Such an interconnection will give Bloomfield an emergency water source - or to switch from Newark to NJDWS.
Bloomfielders may pick up their filters or pitchers at the Health Department, 1 Municipal Plaza 8:30 a.m. - 4:40 p.m. most weekdays. a driver’s license, utility bill and/or a tax bill are considered as proof of residency.
TRENTON - Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that former Bloomfield Township Councilman Elias N. Chalet was sentenced to state prison July 12 for soliciting and accepting a bribe of $15,000 from a business owner, promising the owner that he would use his position on the council to ensure that the township went ahead with its planned purchase of the man’s commercial property.
Chalet, 55, of Bloomfield, who formerly was the councilman for Bloomfield’s First Ward, was sentenced to five years in state prison - including two years of parole ineligibility under New Jersey’s Anti-Corruption Statute - by Superior Court Judge Martin G. Cronin in Essex County.
Chalet pleaded guilty on May 9 to a second-degree charge of bribery in official and political matters. He forfeited $15,000 in funds, representing the bribe payments he accepted. He also forfeited his public position and is permanently barred from elected office and public employment in New Jersey. Chalet was arrested on Nov. 16, 2015 and was indicted by a state grand jury in January 2016.
Deputy Attorneys General Brian Faulk and Cynthia Vazquez prosecuted Chalet and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Chalet was charged in an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption North Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“Corrupt officials like Chalet undermine public trust and good government,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We will not tolerate elected officials who are willing to sell their influence - and sell out their constituents - for an envelope of cash.”
“We are committed to seeking tough sentences for public officials who engage in this type of misconduct,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone with information about public corruption to contact us confidentially, as the businessman in this case did, so we can investigate these crimes and aggressively prosecute those responsible.”
“Chalet abused his position by soliciting a bribe and undermining his role as an elected official,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan, Acting Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “This prison sentence is a result of the hard work by the State Police Official Corruption North Unit and Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure trust is maintained with public officials.”
Chalet initially met with the business owner on Oct. 8, 2015 in front of Chalet’s real estate office on Broad Street in Bloomfield. Chalet told the business owner that the township’s planned purchase of his commercial property would go through only if the owner gave Chalet $15,000 in cash. The business owner promptly reported this to the New Jersey State Police, and the state commenced its investigation.
In a subsequent meeting on Oct. 21, 2015 at Chalet’s real estate office, Chalet again discussed that the business owner would pay $15,000 in return for Chalet ensuring and facilitating that the property be purchased by the township. That meeting was recorded. Chalet and the business owner agreed that the business owner would make an initial payment of $10,000 in cash, with the balance of $5,000 to be paid after the township purchased the property. While Chalet initially asked the business owner to pay the cash through a middle man, Chalet ultimately agreed to receive the payments directly.
The bribe payments were made at Chalet’s real estate office. Chalet accepted the first cash payment of $10,000 from the business owner on Oct. 23, 2015. Chalet was arrested on Nov. 16, 2015 at his real estate office after he accepted the remaining $5,000 in cash from the business owner. Those meetings also were recorded. The vote on the purchase of the business property was scheduled for the day Chalet was arrested. He was arrested before the vote.
When the New Jersey State Police moved to arrest Chalet minutes after he accepted the final cash payment of $5,000, Chalet remained locked in his real estate office for approximately 45 minutes, refusing to respond to a detective who repeatedly knocked on the door and a window of the office.
Relatives of Chalet approached detectives at the scene and tried to reach Chalet on his cell phone. They reported that Chalet was in the bathroom. It is believed that Chalet flushed the $5,000 in cash down the toilet to prevent State Police detectives from finding it when they searched his office after his arrest.
Attorney General Grewal commended the detectives and attorneys who investigated and prosecuted the case for the State Police Official Corruption North Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Former Deputy Attorney General Jane Khodarkovsky presented the case to the state grand jury. Deputy Attorneys General Faulk, Vazquez and Khodarkovsy prosecuted the case under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Anthony Picione, Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Manis, Deputy Bureau Chief.
Attorney General Grewal and Director Allende noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities confidentially. The public can also log on to the Division webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.
The Attorney General’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips from the public leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. Information is posted on the Attorney General’s website at: http://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.