By Reed Gusciora
I read with great interest and concern the letter in lieu of a brief to Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy from Elissa Grodd Schragger, Esq., a director and attorney for Hamilton Township. I would like to take this opportunity to present facts that refute her letter.
When I took office on July 1, 2018, I pledged to the people of Trenton and TWW’s 63,000 ratepayers that I would turn around one of the oldest water utilities in the United States. I vowed to reverse almost three decades of neglect and mismanagement by previous administrations.
First and foremost, TWW belongs to the people of Trenton. It is a highly valuable asset owned by the city. TWW is ours to modernize. It is ours to invest in. It is ours to use as a job-creation engine for our students and residents. It is ours to celebrate and to protect. We embrace that ownership and work hard to produce on average 28 million gallons of water each day for the residents in our five-municipality service area, drinking water that meets and even exceeds state and federal regulatory expectations.
TWW is not for sale. As Mayor, my administration and I will resist any forced sale regardless of who attempts to make it, be it the state or another municipality.
In 740 days, despite an uphill battle with City Council, my administration has been committed to the challenge of leading TWW’s successful transformation, fueled by a disciplined approach that has yielded substantial, quantifiable results.
In September 2018, my administration separated TWW from the Department of Public Works, establishing the Department of Water and Sewer to help advance its reorganization and modernization and increase staffing levels to comply with a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Administrative Consent Order (ACO).
TWW has achieved several significant accomplishments in the last 12 months.
· First, another important ACO deliverable: the hiring of 70 new employees, several involving key positions at our water-filtration plant. This reduced TWW’s vacancy rate to 5 percent from 45 percent—10 percent is the water-industry standard.
· We launched Phase 1 of our $150 million Lead Service Line Replacement Program that will replace 4,300 lead services in our system by June 2021.
· We launched a corrosion-control project (zinc orthophosphate) for TWW’s high service area to prevent lead particles originating in lead service lines and household plumbing from leaching into our drinking water. Our lead action levels are in compliance with the federal Lead and Copper Rule.
· We completed the Radnor Avenue water-main extension in Ewing Township, a $600,000 project that restored fire suppression to a 400-home community.
· We improved the performance of four superpulsators (SPs) at our water-filtration plant; SPs remove particles that form during chemical coagulation.
· We successfully rehabilitated the water-filtration plant’s two chlorine contact basins to improve disinfection and reduce disinfection byproducts.
· We started a $2-million project to replace all 24 filters at the water-filtration plant to improve treatment efficiency; 12 of the 24 are complete.
· We rehabilitated the Ewing Booster Station.
· We completed inspection of all 3,547 fire hydrants and reduced the number of out-of-service fire hydrants from 75 to 9, using internal construction and maintenance personnel.
· We designed and are executing a $405-million, six-year capital plan, which is our blueprint for innovation and excellence in drinking-water production, water storage, water distribution, and removing all lead services from the TWW system within five years.
· We established the Office of Communications and Community Relations (OCCR) to handle external outreach through print publications, Facebook and traditional media, photography, special events, and emergency response.
· We rolled out a web-based payment portal that offers customers more ways to manage and pay their TWW bills.
In summary, we are returning TWW to its position as a leading public water system in the U.S., and we are doing so by making the needed investments in our plant, our water-distribution system, our well-trained workforce, and in our communications with internal and external communities. We will continue to repair TWW’s reputation and rebuild trust with our customers, who are the lifeblood of our operations.
I am honored to be a steward of this important work, and I am always available to our service-area mayors and residents who share a stake in TWW’s restoration as it transforms into a 21st century water system guided by excellence and innovation.