Ex-Ridgewood Water Engineer Charged with Hiding Contamination Levels

William Mowell, the assistant executive director of East Orange's water utility, was indicted along with the utility's executive director on Wednesday. Ridgewood Water contends Mowell could not have manipulated the Ridgewood Water supply durin

A former Ridgewood Water engineer accused of manipulating the water supply in East Orange did not have the access to carry out the alleged deeds in Ridgewood, Ridgewood Water head Frank Moritz says.

The assistant executive director of the East Orange Water Commission (EOWC), William Mowell, 51, of Wyckoff, was indicted Wednesday for allegedly conspiring with the utility's director to manipulate monthly water test results that found higher levels of contaminants in drinking water. The allegations stem from Nov. 2010 to April 2011.

Mowell worked as the chief engineer at Ridgewood Water until he was laid off in July of 2010, according to employment records.

Ridgewood Water serves Wyckoff, Midland Park, Glen Rock and Ridgewood.

He could not have manipulated the water supply in Ridgewood for scheduled monthly tests when he worked in Ridgewood, according to Ridgewood Water's director.

"He was not the keeper of the castle where our tests were resolved," Moritz said. "We have a chief operator, Steve Florence, who takes care of that for us. We don't believe in doing that [allegedly manipulating the water supply and falsifying test results]."

Mowell and EOWC executive director Harry Mansmann are accused of reporting lower levels of the contaminant tetrachlorethene (PERC), an industrial solvent used for dry cleaning. It is classified as a probable carcinogen.

"Working with the DEP, our investigators thoroughly chronicled the actions of these two officials who allegedly manipulated the water supply prior to sampling on multiple occasions, cherry picked the test results they reported to the DEP on another occasion, and pumped water from their most contaminated well into the Passaic River without a permit for nearly a month,” said Division of Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor. "Their alleged conduct is shocking."

Moritz also condemned the alleged tampering.

"Maybe they thought they had good reasons, but that's frightfully silly," he said Wednesday. "It's not the kind of thing that should happen."

They've been charged with conspiracy, multiple counts of official misconduct, pattern of official misconduct, unlawful release of a toxic pollutant, multiple counts of violating the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act, violating the New Jersey Water Pollution Control Act, and tampering with public records or information.

If convicted, Mowell and Mansmann could face more than a decade of prison time while paying thousands in fines.

honest abe February 15, 2013 at 04:31 PM
And by the way not only is Ridgewood's water only $4.55 per 1000 gallons, delivery is free.  All you have to do is turn on your faucet.  There are still many people at Ridgewood that are committed to serving all residents with the best service possible through these tough economic times and not one of them deserves to be looked at in the same manner as a man that did these acts elsewhere.  Maybe if you had some faith in your governing body you could come to the conclusion that he did this in East Orange and not Ridgewood for a reason.  RIDGEWOOD WATER is a non profit government owned service.  Any left over money from revenue goes back to the town and not into one persons big fat pocket. They have no reason to trick fool or take advantage of anyone.  If the cost of water goes up it is only because it costs more in energy to pull the very clean clear fresh water from up to 500ft below your feet at thousands of gallons a minute.  Just so you know a gallon of water is  8.34lbs.  Now that takes some energy to push doesn't it.  Sometimes I wish the good people of Ridgewood would just understand that.  Sorry for the rant.
longtimer66 February 15, 2013 at 11:31 PM
"per M gallons" means per thousand gallons. That's common notation, used in all sorts of things, from wire nuts and water to finance. C =hundred M=thousand and MM=million. Who doesn't have facts straight ? As I said above, I feel best solution is to set up a sep entity or a public private partnership for the water utility, so that it is 100% ratepayer financed. Right now, many things seem to be co-mingled . Payroll for Ridgewood Water is in the muni payroll. However, if you look at the other 2 Rwd entities, BOE and the Library, they are completely separate payrolls. Water is not.. But Ridgewood Water serves other towns. So, it's not just the payroll but also benefits, pensions etc too. databases here: http://www.nj.com/news/bythenumbers/ or: http://php.app.com/NJpublicemployees12/search.php The union contract is w/Rwd too, not other towns (see Vlg site) Yes, Rwd current rate is less than HHK's , which is why I quoted the HHK number. They- as well as United Water and others- are also governed by DEP regs. United serves some other nearby towns- rates are more like HHK's. Lastly, you can find many articles on Patch and other places about the class action lawsuit re Ridgewood Water by other towns against the Village. Whether that succeeds or not, taxpayers of Rwd must still pay to defend the Village on all that -- another reason all involved may be better served by spinning off Rwd Water so it's 100% ratepayer supported.
Phil Brooks February 16, 2013 at 03:50 AM
Mikka, Do you know how to use the "reply" button? Answer: Obviously not. And, what language was that you wrote in? If it's English, it's a form I've never seen before. If I were you, I wouldn't be flashing my ignorance around like a badge of honor.
honest abe February 16, 2013 at 01:48 PM
As far as I know not a penny of tax payers money goes to Ridgewood Water payroll. As well as all other expenses. The revenue from water sold goes to keeping the utility running. Which is also why when there was more discussions on layoffs this year to keep taxes reasonable they stated that Ridgewood Water would not be among the layoffs because laying off a Ridgewood Water employee doesn't affect the taxes. But that is as far as I know it. When a Ridgewood Water employee is asked to help with leaf clean up or snow clean up he gets paid through a different payroll then if he were to be working on Ridgewood Water time. I didn't mean to sound off putting with the million thosands comment. Just have not seen M used to indicate thousands since ancient times for Milli. Haha. Anyway have a good day all.
longtimer66 February 16, 2013 at 05:51 PM
If what you say is true, why is the payroll co-mingled? Why also are union contracts which include Rwd Water? See Vill website, blue collar p5, white collar p21, supervisor p4. There are only 3 payrolls for Rwd in the database links I noted above, Village, BOE, and Library. So how do they separate out (as you say) when a Rwd Water employee is doing something else-- if there is no other payroll, union contract, work rules and so on? Seems pretty murky. Water is not sep, but Library is-- why? Also if what you say is so, how did the other towns find causes of action to bring their class action lawsuit? Link to one article on that here: http://www.northjersey.com/news/151892895_Three_towns_sue_Ridgewood_over_consecutive_water_rate_hikes.html Again, it's more transparent and fair to all ratepayers involved if you make the water utility a sep entity, I'd say. And if you look at the United Water and Aqua America links I posted in orig comment, you'll see many towns have done this to their advantage. Many arrangements are possible - who owns infrastructure, operations, lots of other things. It can work like shared services or work with a mgmt and/or operating partner such as United or Aqua. Village's credit is also used to finance stuff for Water- why should we shoulder that when it serves other towns? Make it supported only by ratepayers and its own entity. Prob is "as far as I know" (you, me, anyone). Transparency is key.


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