This scenario is exactly the reason I scratch my head in wonderment of the way in which this Township administration handles public information, especially when it comes to public explanations.
First and foremost Kudos should be extended to the Township for quickly and decisively disseminating information regarding the recent ‘Boil Water Advisory, water is Contaminated with E.coli’ that occurred on Thursday, July 24th. It appears they used all means at their disposal e.g. Twitter, Facebook, NIXLE, S.B.P.D. email, and reverse 911, to disseminate this alert as soon as possible. This should be acknowledged.
But what I find disturbing and therefore must also be acknowledged, is that when approximately 24 hours later this ‘advisory’ was cancelled, the only information you were alerted to was: “The TOWNSHIP OF SADDLE BROOK WATER WARNING AND WATER BOIL ADVISORY ISSUED THURSDAY, JULY 24, 2014 HAS BEEN CANCELLED EFFECTIVE 2;22 PM FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2014.” There was no explanation anywhere to be found. Not via Twitter, Facebook, NIXLE, S.B.P.D. email, or reverse 911. The only information posted on the townships official website says: “The Boil Water Advisory is Officially Lifted”. The township was Johnny-on-the-spot when it came to getting the word out but characteristically short on explanations.
Contaminated water, especially with E.coli, is nothing to treat lightly. It should be treated with a heavy dose of chemicals (bad joke). I would think most residents would want or need to know exactly what allowed this to happen. Having no explanation has already probably caused needless and most likely dubious speculation from the public.
A Record article published on July 25th BY MATTHEW MCGRATH, STAFF WRITER, stated “Police said the exact cause of the contamination was not known, but possible causes are broken pipes or heavy rains that increase runoff into reservoirs.” If there is something wrong with the pipes wouldn’t everyone like to know exactly what is being done to see to it that tomorrow morning when you are brushing your teeth you are not putting more into your mouth then you realize? Then some heard a rumor that the townships water testing vendor, Sani-Pure, located at 178-182 Saddle River Road, ‘may’ have botched the testing of water samples and received a false positive. Next we come to find a post on an unreliable website forum, NJ.com, by Councilman Andrew Cimiluca, screen name amc91, explaining that the townships water is routinely tested at a number of locations and a small number of locations showed positive for E.coli. Therefore to play it safe the township issued their warning and ordered a retesting. (Note: This post has since been removed from NJ.com) How many people visit NJ.com, not many? If this information was deemed useful to the public then why wasn’t it posted on their official website? And what about United Water, the company that supplies your faucets? Have they published an explanation? Was it their fault, the towns fault, Sani-Pure? Maybe the guy testing and transporting your water samples couldn’t find any toilet paper at a potty stop while en route to his frequent testing stops. As gross as that mental image may be, my point is we don’t know what the hell happened here and deserve a lot more then JUST fast ‘warnings’.
I hate to use this word again, I really do, but transparency is the Hallmark (no pun intended) of trustworthiness. This administration is obligated to explain in great detail if necessary exactly what happened here, that they have a firm understanding, and that they are doing everything possible to see to it that this will not happen again. Plus, they have a equal obligation to make sure their public is keenly aware of all the details and comfortable with the future. This is a minimum of what should be expected, not an overbearing or unreasonable request.
When the Record reporter attempted to get an official explanation from the mayor herself he wrote: “Municipal offices were closed Friday because of a summer schedule, and Mayor Karen Chamberlain did not return a call for comment.”