Berkeley Residents Want Water Problem Fixed Quicker

Resident Jason Kangas speaks about the water quality in his neighborhood. In the foreground are two filters. The white one is new. The other one looks discolored after three months of use. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

BERKELEY – Residents again came out to a recent Township Council meeting complaining about the quality of water from Aqua America, and this time, employees from the water company came out as well.

This issue stems from several residents complaining of the smell or appearance of the water, and of high tests of iron and aluminum in the water. They were also concerned about the presence of radionuclides. Aluminum and iron are considered secondary contaminants and in low does are just aesthetic issues, the water company has said. Aqua has previously stated that an iron removal system is being built, but it won’t be completed until 2019.

Resident Jason Kangas brought in two water filters. One was brand new and still white. The other was discolored after just a few months of use. He said he was concerned about iron and aluminum getting into the body, and staying in the organs.

While residents are more aware of the issues, businesses in the area might be using that water in food preparation and other uses that the public might not realize, he said.

The H & M Potter School is on this water, but it has its own filtration system, he said. He questioned why the taxpayers should have to fund a filtration system when the water company should be taking care of it. Similarly, he questioned why residents should have to pay for their own filtration systems to make up for the water company’s shortfall.

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

While iron and aluminum might just be aesthetic issues, enough of it must be hazardous, otherwise why would the DEP create an upper limit for it, he said. He has concerns about how long it’s taken to be addressed, since he was looking at 2010 tests. In 2013, he had some bloodwork done, which revealed he had high iron in his bloodstream.

He suggested the water company dig a deeper well and reach a different aquifer.

Councilman James Byrnes said that Aqua should have to pay for any filters being used. Additionally, they should check the pipes that the water is being transported in.

Keith Ruscitti, president of the Berkeley Shores Homeowners Association, said his neighborhood is in Aqua’s territory. He asked if they can switch utilities. Township attorney Lauren Staiger said they cannot. Aqua is granted franchise rights from the state.

Representatives from Aqua were invited to the meeting by Councilman Keith Buscio, whose house is on the water company. At one point, they went into a private room to discuss issues with residents. Dan Lockwood, manager of communications for Aqua, said it was a productive dialogue and the company vowed to follow up with each resident to address their concerns.

While it appeared from some of the discussion that Aqua’s water isn’t filtered, but just treated with chlorine, Lockwood followed up after the meeting with more details.

“All the water provided to Berkeley Township customers receives rigorous treatment before reaching homes and businesses, including volatile organic compound removal, iron sequestration, pH control and chlorine addition for disinfection purposes,” he said in an email. “Iron sequestration means preventing the formation of color and cloudiness without actually removing the iron from the water. Once the iron filtration project is complete, iron will be removed from the water.”

Berkeley Shores past president, Fred Bekiarian, noted that some people are more susceptible to iron than others.

While radionuclides are within limits, he wanted Aqua to work toward decreasing the content anyway.

Lockwood restated that the water company is within New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection standards.