William Mowell, 52, a former top official the East Orange Water Company, has been sentenced to three years in prison for ‘hiding elevated levels of an industrial solvent in drinking water pumped to more than 80,000 residents in the city and neighboring South Orange,” according to a report on NJ.com.
Mowell, who pleaded guilty to charges in July, apologized for his actions at his sentencing hearing.
Mowell conspired with EOWC’s former executive director, Harry Mansmann, to falsify levels of tetrachloroethene to appear as if the water was safe for consumption.
In February 2013, both Mowell and Mansmann were charged with manipulating water test results. Mansmann passed away in March 2014.
Although DEP officials visited South Orange in March 2013 to assure local officials and residents that EOWC water was at safe levels for all contaminants, South Orange residents and officials have had serious concerns about water quality for years. In March 2011, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection cited East Orange Water Company for exceeding the allowable concentration of tetrachloroethylene in drinking water that is distributed.
South Orange Village responded by filing suit against EOWC for water quality and service issues.
In the years since 2011, South Orange has responded by continuing legal action against EOWC and by keeping a close eye on contamination levels — posting water quality testing and reports on the village website.
In September, the village held a public meeting to update residents on water quality and the search for a new water supplier and management company once the contract with EOWC expires at the end of 2016. New Jersey American Water, which supplies Maplewood, is the leading contender.
The Board of Trustees has formed a working group to negotiate on behalf of the village regarding the water situation. The working group is currently made up of Village Administrator Barry Lewis, Village Counsel Steven Rother, and Trustees Howard Levison and Walter Clarke.
In July, Clarke reported that the village had entered into an arbitration process but turnover at the top at EOWC has made that “a frustrating process.” Read our full interview with Clarke here.
Clarke noted that the village has also been tracking water quality carefully.
“EOWC has been taking wells offline one by one, rehabilitating them and then putting them online,” he said.