By JOHN T. WARD
The remarks by public utilities Director Cliff Keen, made during the council’s first semimonthly meeting of 2017, came after a resident showed off a water service line with a lead connector that was recently excavated outside his Spring Street home.
“For more than 20 years, I’ve been drinking out of a lead straw,” Alberto Larotonda told the council.
Looking something like a shepherd with a staff, Larotonda approached the microphone in the council chamber with a corroded iron pipe topped by a gooseneck lead connector about 14 inches long.
“We have lead connected to our water mains that could be leaching lead into the water supply,” Larotonda told the council. He called it a “public health hazard” that the borough should address.
“We can’t leave it up to the homeowner, who may not know they have a lead connection,” he said.
Administrator Stanley Sickles said such “lead bends” were used in the past when the line from the main to a home “didn’t exactly line up.”
But the borough has no record of where the lead connectors were used, and no way of identifying them short of digging, he said.
Keen, though, said that tests indicate that lime scaling inside pipes and connectors, combined with low-acidity water, is keeping lead from leaching into drinking water.
A licensed water utility operator hired by the borough as utilities head in 2015, Keen said the system was extensively tested in 2013 under a directive by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, with an eye toward homes built before the 1950s, when lead connectors were common.
“We don’t have any indications of lead problems in our supply,” he told the audience. “There is no indication that there is any lead or copper in our system.” Leaching from copper, he said, can be a dangerous as lead.
Afterward, Keen told redbankgreen that the testing involved 205 “first draw” samples by homeowners after their water had not run over the previous 12 hours, which he said is the best means of detecting leaching. The homes selected were chosen based on their age, he said.
Normally, he said, only 30 samples are taken.
Larotonda had previously appeared before the council twice to call attention to a related issue: the burden of costs associated with repairing water service lines.
He had been shocked to discover, when the line between the main and his home showed signs of a rupture, that he would have to post a $2,960 deposit to cover borough costs of compensating a borough-designated contractor. That put him in the position of having to pay for something possibly beyond his property limits, and certainly beyond his ability to monitor.
In his remarks at the government reorganization meeting on New Year’s Day, Menna said he would push for the creation of an insurance program property owners could use to mitigate the shock of water line repairs. Sayreville and Madison both have such programs, he said.
Additionally, officials have floated the idea of the borough giving more than one contractor the right to excavate and work on the lines.