Report on "Water Issues" Meeting
Green foreshadowed Thursday's meeting in a May 18 blog entry in which he promised to apprise the public of the date, but there was no public notice. Plaintalker received less than 24 hours' notice by e-mail from a civic group. As stated in the e-mail, the audience was mostly members of the Democratic City Committee , Green, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and water company representatives.
In addition, speakers Thursday included Sunil K. Garg, executive director of the Union County Utilities Authority and Commissioner Bill Populus of the Plainfield Area Regional Sewerage Authority.
The meeting was billed as a followup to a May 12 meeting arranged by the Friends of Sleepy Hollow on the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority, but except for PMUA Commissioner Alex Toliver, who is also on the Democratic City Committee and was in the audience, there was no speaker from PMUA.
Green, who managed to misstate the authority's acronym as PUMA, said the meeting was called to educate the community on their rights. PMUA manages both sewer and solid waste for the citry and the discussion covered both aspects.
Jason Gonzalez, vice president for governmental affairs for New Jersey American Water, described the options for lowering water bills. Besides separating outdoor uses from household ones with a separate meter or restructuring the billing plan, Gonzalez stressed the importance of water conservation. He said the company has an ongoing educational program on the subject for customers.
Despite some questions on getting around the $2,800 separate meter cost, company representatives said while the initial household hookup is free, adding a meter incurs costs for equipment, material and time that cannot be set aside. The one-time fee may be worth the cost for homes that have large irrigation systems or similar outside use, speakers said.
Gonzalez noted that water usage costs may also be ameliorated by a payment assistance plan aavailable to homeowners who meet income eligibility guidelines.
Populus described the work of PARSA, which conveys sewage from eight communities over 20 miles of pipes. Although he did not specify it, the waste conveyed by PMUA and then PARSA ultimately comes under the jurisdiction of a third agency, the Middlesex County Utilities Authority, for treatment before ocean disposal.
As the meeting moved on to solid waste issues, Garg described the rules that mandate disposal of all Union County municipal solid waste and bulky waste at the Rahway waste-to-energy plant that was established in 1998. Plainfield was one of 14 municipalities that signed on to an agreement then that locked in a preferential rate for disposal that is $30 less per ton than that of the seven municipalities which did not join, he said.
Green took credit for establishing the UCUA while he was a Union County freeholder chairman. He also said Plainfield had members on the UCUA board early on and he hopes to have some again.
Although Green talked about what city government needs to do, such as naming commissioners to the various authorities, it seemed he expected the action to take place within the confines of the Democratic Party.
The only governing body members present were Council President Rashid Burney and Councilwoman Linda Carter.
With some major entities lacking for the debate, it remains to be seen whether it will advance the public's awareness and understanding of the issues surrounding water use and solid waste disposal. Stay tuned for post-primary enlightenment.