Berkeley Residents Complain Of Water Quality

A resident shows the difference in a water filter after being used for just a short time. (Photo courtesy Jason Kangas)

BERKELEY – Residents at a recent Township Council meeting complained about the quality of water being piped to some parts of town, but Aqua America, the water company, says that the water is safe.

Resident Jason Kangas approached the governing body with a host of complaints. He said he’s been buying cases of water to drink and cook with, but the household still bathes with it.

His filters, which are supposed to last a certain amount of time, get discolored and need to be replaced before that time. He said a friend who works for the Environmental Protection Agency had it tested, and the results were shocking to him. It came up as having twice the limit of iron, and five times the limit of aluminum. It also had radionuclides.

Kangas said he felt that his concerns were being ignored by the company, since he’s just a resident. He asked the governing body to advocate on behalf of him and his neighbors to get Aqua to clean up the water.

The Township Council passed a resolution urging the Board of Public Utilities to hold Aqua accountable for the situation. Mayor Carmen Amato asked the township engineer to contact the Department of Environmental Protection about it.

Councilman Keith Buscio said his house was on the Berkeley Township Municipal Utilities Authority water before being switched to Aqua. He saw a big change. Aqua had a chlorine smell, hard water, and created an orange-red ring in the toilet if the water sat too long. After calling to complain, he was told a new iron removal system is going in but won’t be finished until the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019.

A representative from Aqua emailed a response to these concerns.

“Aqua uses chlorine in our water treatment process and it is not uncommon for treated water to have a slight chlorine smell from time to time,” said Dan Lockwood, manager of communications. “Aqua works to keep a minimum level of free chlorine residual in the system to consistently meet NJ Department of Environmental Protection standards. Because some may detect the smell of chlorine more easily than others, we ask any Aqua customers that notice a chlorine odor in their water that they believe is stronger than normal to call our customer care center at 877-987-2782 so we can investigate on a case-by-case basis.”

He explained that the rings in the toilet are likely from iron. The company will be upgrading the local facilities to address this issue.

“The project is currently in its design and permitting phase,” he wrote. “We expect to begin construction on the upgrades in mid-2018 and expect the project to be completed by mid-2019. Once work is completed, that will help to alleviate the issue.”

Radionuclides, according to the EPA, are radioactive forms of elements. They are sometimes naturally occurring.

Aqua shared test results from November, which showed that the levels of radionuclides were within levels deemed acceptable by the DEP.

Radionuclides are a primary contaminant, held to stricter standards than aluminum and iron, which are secondary contaminants. Lockwood said the difference is that secondary contaminants are aesthetic issues in low amounts.

Aluminum, in low levels, is also naturally occurring in the area, he said. The company follows a quarterly testing cycle to be within DEP standards.