Monroe Township Residents Swamp Legislators With Water Concerns At A Meeting, Sen. John Matheussen And Assemblyman George Geist Vowed To Work On Contamination Problems.

Posted: January 28, 2000

MONROE — Contaminated well water topped the list of issues last night as about 60 residents came out to voice concerns to State Sen. John Matheussen and Assemblyman George Geist at the pair's annual township meeting.

Addressing worries about the widespread discovery of poisonous chemicals in area wells during the last two years, the two Gloucester County Republicans gave assurances that they would continue to work to solve the problem.

"I'm no-nonsense when it comes to water quality, and so is the senator," Geist said, adding that the team would make house calls if necessary.

Many in the audience were from the Woods at Williamstown East, the 47-home development where contamination was most recently discovered. Tests conducted by Monroe Township's environmental commission on a Buckhorn Drive home there showed levels of the industrial solvent 1,1-dichloroethene at more than double the state standard. The chemical, a possible carcinogen, can cause irritation of the eyes and nose; potential long-term health effects include liver and kidney damage.

Publicity about the discovery has led several neighbors to request testing, and the county Health Department is taking water samples in the development to determine the extent of the contamination.

Residents of the development expressed frustration over a perceived lack of urgency shown by township, county and state officials. Several said they had called the Municipal Utilities Authority asking to be hooked up to municipal water but had been told that it was not feasible.

"We need to speed things up," said Irene Flood, the homeowner whose well prompted the county testing. "We need to get off these wells and hook up to town water."

Flood has had a water filter installed with financing from the New Jersey Spill Fund but said she was worried that she and her family would not be protected against the mercury that was discovered last year in her neighbor's well.

The legislators urged residents to be patient. They said that hooking up a development to municipal water cost a lot of money, and that there must be justification.

Carol Scales, a resident of the township's Crystal Lake section, who was instrumental in banding the community together after high levels of mercury were found in the well water, urged others to do the same. Crystal Lake homes are tied in to the public-water supply.

"The county didn't want to look at us; neither did the MUA or the Township Council," Scales said. "You guys have to come together. You have to go to MUA en masse, approach the town council, and demand to be heard."

The two lawmakers have presented legislation that they said aimed to prevent what happened in Monroe.

One bill, introduced yesterday, would require testing of wells before a house is sold. Another would require new housing developments built near a known area of contamination to be hooked up to the municipal water supply.

"If there's contamination, there will be no new wells," Geist said.

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