Joseph F. Berenato
Town talks contamination
Lakeview Gardens wells continue to be discussed
HAMMONTON—Public Works Manager Robert Vettese discussed contaminated wells in the Lakeview Gardens section of Hammonton during the January 23 meeting of town council.
Vettese said that, 2022, letters were sent to the 54 homes in the area that utilize private wells, because one property owner tested above acceptable limits for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Of those 54, Vettese said that 19 responded.
“When we sent the letters out, we did door hangers and made some phone calls. Of those 19 that came back, 13 of those 19 were in compliance—these are on private wells—and six of those out of the 19 were out of compliance associated with the PFAS compounds,” Vettese said.
Vettese said the town is asking the remaining residents of Lakeview Gardens to get their wells tested as soon as possible.
Councilman Steven Furgione suggested that another letter be sent to the remaining residents.
“We offer the same situation we offered before, which is they pay $360 to the town; the town will schedule Henderson Labs as a last go-round here,” Furgione said.
Furgione strongly recommended that residents test their wells.
“This is something you should be doing yearly anyway as part of your own personal maintenance of your home. We’d like to see the tests sooner than later,” Furgione said.
Furgione continued with a recommendation for the town.
“We started last year with a utility program, similar to a road program. We’ve been doing a road program every year or every other year, and I think we should put this entire project in queue and start talking to the engineers, and have this in queue and ready to go as one of our upcoming projects in the next year or 18 months,” Furgione said.
Furgione reiterated the importance of well testing.
“If you are over the limit of one of the chemicals, we can certainly help facilitate for you to get a POET [point-of-entry treatment] system so that your well is cleaned properly—but doing nothing does not help your situation, and it can’t help us make decisions. We need the information is the bottom line here,” Furgione said.
Mayor Stephen DiDonato commented further.
“You have 19 homes we tested. We came up with six that are dirty. There’s no other way to say it; they’re dirty. There’s cancer-causing agents in six of those 19 wells. It’s 33 to 34 percent,” DiDonato said.
DiDonato said that there are 35 wells left to be tested.
“That means 12 of you have cancer-causing agents tonight you and your family are drinking in your water. It’s a private well. You’re contaminating your family and taking on health risks that you don’t—it’s a check you don’t want to cash. Please, I’m begging you—begging you—for you, for your family, for your future, for your kids, for kids that you might want to have if you’re young: you need to test your water,” DiDonato said.
“You’re playing Russian roulette with your family for $360,” DiDonato said.
DiDonato urged those in the area to have their wells tested.
“You’re taking a chance. You could be killing your family—and I know ‘killing’ is a strong word, but that’s how I feel about it right now,” DiDonato said.
Furgione discussed the compounds in question.
“Teflon is a big one, certain suntan lotions and sunscreens, certain cosmetic products and all types of waterproofing—Scotch Guard and things of that nature,” Furgione said.
Vettese said that the testing will also help the town compile a database.
“Even though the town can’t get money from the Spill Fund to extend water, we can pursue at least maybe looking into that as a possibility if we can show the state of New Jersey and the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] that there’s a certain percentage out there. At least it’s an avenue to discuss,” Vettese said.
DiDonato commented further.
“This council has to vote yes to bond the money to run water. This way, we clean these wells up and get them all hooked up to the town system. It has to be done,” DiDonato said.
Councilman Jonathan Oliva asked if the $360 would be refunded if the wells test in exceedance, and Furgione explained the process.
“The first test is not. What the state asks for, it’s either 60 or 90 days you do a second test. The numbers aren’t marginal, the numbers we’re seeing that are over; they’re over. It’s not going to get better. So you pay the extra $360 the second time around, the state reimburses you for the second test and then puts the POET system in,” Furgione said.
Gribbin inquired about private wells that are not in Lakeview Gardens.
“We’re focusing on a specific area of our community that has tested for that. There are obviously other parts of our town where residents have private wells. Are we offering the same ability for testing, let’s say for somebody who might live on Middle Road?” Gribbin said.
Furgione replied that, as of now, the focus is on Lakeview Gardens.
“If you live in another area of town, and you get your private well tested and there’s an issue with one of these PFAS contaminants, please let us know. Let Mr. Vettese know. We can start the process in other areas, but I’d like to finish one problem before we start opening up the whole town here,” Furgione said.
DiDonato said that tests in other areas of Hammonton did not show excessive levels of PFAS.
“We have a hotspot here, gang. It’s a hotspot. It’s Ground Zero. You’re living in a hotspot. Test your well,” DiDonato said.
Gribbin inquired further.
“If we have a hotspot of a chemical that’s a man-made chemical, is anyone investigating from what source this came from?” Gribbin said.
“If we can get the tests done, and—as the mayor said—you confirm that you have a large amount in a dense area, then the state picks up the investigation. It’s not something that we would investigate,” Furgione said.
Furgione reiterated the importance of testing wells in Lakeview Gardens.
“Unless we get the tests done, we can’t nudge the state along to do the investigation, so that’s where we are,” Furgione said.
Also during his report, Vettese discussed lead and galvanized water service lines and laterals in the town of Hammonton. Vettese said that a letter will be sent to every property that utilizes town water.
“What we’d like you to do is, there’s a questionnaire within that letter; send that back to the town of Hammonton, because we want to know what type of pipe you have, even if it’s copper or plastic. That’s fine; they don’t have to be replaced, but we want to try to log in each person’s type of water service that they have,” Vettese said.
Furgione commented on the letter to be sent to residents.
“We provided a phone number, too. You can call the water department; they can come out and look. If you have a question about your service line coming into your home, they will come out and look for you. They’ll know in 10 seconds. The letter has pictures. It shows you the different types of pipes that could possibly be coming into your home,” Furgione said.
Furgione also discussed this topic while presenting the report from the Water and Sewer Committee. Furgione said that the town received a proposal from Adams, Rehmann and Heggan Associates (ARH) to help with lead service line support that involves geographic information system (GIS) and reporting to DEP.
“The amount of this proposal is $7,500, so I’d like to put that in the form of a motion to award to ARH for continuing lead service line replacement and GIS support,” Furgione said.
Councilman Edward Wuillermin seconded the motion, and asked for clarification.
“We’re trying to map the location of where all these potential connections that are lead and need to be addressed—either lead or galvanized. That’s what the purpose of this mapping is?” Wuillermin said.
Furgione affirmed Wuillermin’s assertion.
“We have a mandate that, within 10 years, we need to have all this information back to the state. We feel that, the quicker we can get this information done, the quicker we can seek funding to do this work—whether it is individual lines to your home, or whether it is any service laterals that we have throughout the town,” Furgione said.
The motion passed unanimously.
Also during his report, Furgione said that Town Solicitor Michael Malinsky is in possession of a copy of a new agreement with Water Remediation Technology LLC (WRT).
“They’re our supply company that supplies Wells 4, 5 and 7 with our radium powder. He’s going to review the agreement. It was a 10-year agreement; it’s up in February. They’ve already agreed to extend it so we have time to review it; they got it back to us a week or so ago,” Furgione said.
Furgione also gave an update on the sewer plant’s centrifuge, noting that the control panel was due for delivery during the week of January 23.
“I really couldn’t figure out what the hold-up was with this whole control panel; I’ve seen pictures and sketches. It weighs 2,200 lbs. That’s coming this week, supposedly, and the actual centrifuge will be scheduled to be delivered in the next few weeks,” Furgione said.
Furgione said that the sewer plant currently has two filter presses. One of those, Furgione said, will be kept in place and used as a back-up to the centrifuge if necessary. Furgione had a recommendation for the second filter press.
“We’ll put it on GovDeals and see if someone can just take it. It’s a 26-year-old piece of equipment. It has value; you just have to have the right company or entity that would use it,” Furgione said.
Furgione made the motion to list the filter press for sale. Wuillermin seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.
The last item on Furgione’s report related to the installation of drip irrigation at the Boyer Avenue Land Application Facility.
“It looks like they’re going to start laying pipe this week. They’ve been out there for probably the better part of three or four weeks flagging the area; when I say flagging the area, they’ve probably put 2,000 colored stakes out there, so they’re ready to go,” Furgione said.
Town engineer Mark Herrmann had two action items in his report.
The first item pertained to the project on School House Lane/Vine Street. Herrmann said that construction is complete, including the final paving.
“What’s left to do is final inspection and walk-throughs, punch-list items,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann said that the contractor, Think Pavers Hardscaping LLC, submitted a payment application in the amount of $107,060.85 which was forwarded to Business Administrator Frank Zuber.
“We also have a change order request—Change Order No. 2—which is in the amount of $55,739.17, which is an increase and reflects additional work we had due to unforeseen conditions on the project,” Herrmann said.
Furgione made a motion to approve the change order, which Wuillermin seconded. Furgione then commented further, noting that several meetings were held with school officials regarding the change orders.
“Of this money, about half of this, or a little bit more than that, relates to work we did at the school—at St. Joe—to straighten out that whole issue we had out there. The school—and you’ll see it in our final quantities next month—since the school board owns the school, the school board and St. Joe and the town have agreed on a couple items of additional concrete work that we’re going to split three ways,” Furgione said.
Speaking with The Gazette after the meeting, Furgione described the concrete work.
“Going down School House Lane, on the side of the school, you have a concrete curb, a double-wide sidewalk and then another concrete curb that runs along the grass of the entryway going in the building. We already redid that concrete curb. The scope of the work was concrete curb, double sidewalk and stop, so we did the concrete curb, the double sidewalk and the new concrete curb; it was old and beat up. The other section is, we picked up some individual pads of concrete along Third Street—the sidewalk—that was outside of the scope. We did four or five, skipped a couple that were decent and did another three or four,” Furgione said.
The motion passed unanimously.
The second item on Herrmann’s report related to the roadwork on Valley Avenue, which he said is also complete, except for final walk-through and punch-list items. Herrmann also said that the asphalt will need to be tested, as the project was funded by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Herrmann said that a payment application was submitted to Zuber in the amount of $97,279.28.
“We submitted a Change Order No. 2 for this project; this reflects an increase for $30,056.59 for similar items that were deemed necessary due to unforeseen conditions,” Herrmann said.
Furgione made a motion to approve the change order, which Wuillermin seconded. Furgione commented on the item.
“When we go to final quantities, even though we’ve had two-plus change orders, final quantities should bring us in lower than the cost of the job, correct?” Furgione said.
Herrmann confirmed that assessment, and Furgione continued.
“For Valley, we will be lower than what we contracted, with the changes,” Furgione said.
The motion was approved unanimously.
Herrmann’s report also contained the following information items:
• NJDOT FY2022 Municipal Aid: Old Forks Road: ARH is preparing the construction plans for the Old Forks Road project. They have had discussions with the Atlantic County Engineer regarding the proposed utility work as it relates to their project at the intersection with Third Street. The town has also received an additional $287,000 for the second phase of this project. ARH will contact the NJDOT to see if it is allowed to combine both phases into one project.
• Hammonton Bike Path Connector – Phase II: ARH is preparing the construction plans for the Bike Path project. The next step will be to submit the project to the Pinelands for public development approval. They have also met with Vettese to discuss the design progression and the location of the proposed improvements.
• 11th Street Sidewalk Improvements: ARH has completed the preliminary design of the 11th Street Sidewalk project. This project will need to be submitted to the NJDOT for approval and authorization to bid. They are also modifying the design as necessary to accommodate an additional phase of this project, and will review with Vettese prior to the completion of the plans and specifications.
• K&K Linens Property / 224 Vine Street: ARH was authorized to redesign a parking lot for the Vine Street property adjacent to the town hall building. The design has been started, and ARH will review with Vettese when they are approximately 60 percent complete.
• Mazza Muffler Site / 104 S. Egg Harbor Road: ARH rescheduled the receipt of bids for the remediation and demolition of the existing building for February 85. They will present a recommendation of award or rejection of bids at the February council meeting.
• 2021/2022 Water Capital Projects: ARH has completed the field work and base maps and has prepared the legal descriptions and exhibits. They have been revising the plans and specifications for the relocation of the water main, and have met with Vettese, Councilman Furgione and Councilman Wuillermin to finalize the design. ARH will be coordinating with Vettese and to contact and meet with the property owners one more time to obtain signatures on the easement agreements. The limits of the South First Road project are being revisited, and the White Horse Pike/Seagrove Avenue portion of this project remains on hold.
• Boyer Avenue Pump Station: ARH has made the final changes to the plans and specifications and met with Municipal Utilities Superintendent Anthony DeCicco to review the scope of work and the construction cost estimate. They will provide DeCicco with a final bill of materials so he can procure cost estimates for the items.
• Lake Park ADA Playground/Small Cities: The project is complete. ARH notes that the total amount expended by the town for the construction of this project is $376,543.37, which is $23,456.63 less than the $400,000 grant the town received. ARH is working with the Recreation Department to explore options to expend the remaining funds, and is awaiting the maintenance bond from the Contractor.
The items were approved.
During the meeting, council held the second public hearing of Ordinance No. 001-2023 – Vacating Unnamed Road Located on the Common Property Line of Lots 5 and 5.01 of Block 1201 in the town of Hammonton.
According to the language of the ordinance, within the Inclusionary Development Zone (IDZ), there is a municipal roadway known as Unnamed Road, which runs from N.J. State Route 54 to Commerce Way.
“In order to accommodate the development of, and access to, properties within the IDZ Zoning District, it would be advantageous and beneficial to the Town of Hammonton to vacate the Unnamed Road right of way to facilitate that development,” the ordinance states.
The ordinance was adopted and published.
Council entertained Resolution No. 024-2023, Approving Economic Development Payment (Eagle Theater).
The resolution states that the governing body of the town of Hammonton “believes that, in order to sustain Hammonton’s positive revitalization efforts, a coordinated economic development plan shall be necessary.”
“Much of the Town’s downtown revitalization can be attributed to the exponential growth of its arts community … the governing body desires to capitalize and expand upon those successes and, as permitted by New Jersey Law (N.J.S.A. 40:48-1(30)), fund a local arts entity with a broad geographic reach to advertise to the Delaware Valley and the entire State of New Jersey Hammonton’s advantages including its open space, its geographic proximity to Philadelphia, Atlantic City and New York City and all points in between, its favorable tax structure, its thriving downtown and its traditional focus on family and education including its public and parochial schools and its affiliation with Stockton University, all of which have served as economic drivers,” the resolution states.
The resolution further states that mayor and council authorize approval of a resolution “authorizing funding via a professional services contract in the amount of $40,000 of a broad-based advertising program through the vehicle of a non-profit 501-C3 [sic] arts entity focused on attracting visitors to Hammonton and in turn stimulating economic growth and attracting new residents and businesses to build upon the successes of the last decade and N.J.S. 40:48-1(30).”
Though Zuber did not read the full title of the resolution during the meeting, the 501(c)(3) named in the title of the resolution is The Eagle Theatre.
According to the resolution, the $40,000 will be paid “as follows: $40,000 in January 2023.”
“The authorization of payment is for the year 2023,” the resolution states.
Council also entertained the following resolutions:
• Resolution No. 019-2023, Appointing Frank Zuber as the Fund Commissioner for the local fund for the Statewide Insurance Fund for Fund Year 2023, and appointing Audrey Boyer as the Alternate Fund Commissioner for the Local Unit for the Fund Year 2023;
• Resolution No. 020-2023, Renew membership to Statewide Insurance Fund for a period of three (3) years, effective from January 1, 2023 terminating on January 1, 2026 at 12:01 a.m. standard time. The local unit will be afforded the following coverage(s): Workers’ Compensation & Employer’s, Liability Comprehensive General Liability, Automobile Liability and Physical Damage, Public Officials and Employment Practices Liability, Property, Inland Marine Boiler and Machinery, Crime-Faithful Performance and Fidelity, Pollution Liability, Cyber Liability and Non Owned Aircraft;
• Resolution No. 022-2023, Authorize Grant Application for Hammonton Lake Park from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs for up to $100,000 for Event Pavilion Improvements at Hammonton Lake Park;
• Resolution No. 023-2023, Authorize Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Festival procession, carnival and fireworks. July 11 through July 16 is the scheduled date for the Lady of Mt. Carmel carnival and events in the town of Hammonton;
• Resolution No. 027-2023, Approve Lease for the purchase of three Ford Police Interceptors and equipment for each vehicle; the mayor and town clerk of the town of Hammonton are hereby authorized and directed to enter into a four-year lease agreement with Government Leasing LLC, for three Ford Interceptors purchased from Winner Ford and Equipment from Major Police Supply in the amount not to exceed $129,097.98;
• Resolution No. 028-2023, Authorizing the Annual Downtown Hammonton Easter Eggstravaganza 2023 on April 7 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.;
• Resolution No. 029-2023, Authorizing and Endorsing Cruisin’ MainStreet-Remember Friday Nights Event on May 19 (with a rain date of May 20) from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.;
• Resolution No. 030-2023, Authorizing The Eighth Annual Hammonton Food Truck Festival Event on June 10 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.;
• Resolution No. 031-2023, Authorizing The Hammonton Arts & Music Festival 2023 on May 20 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
All resolutions were approved en masse.
The next meeting of town council will be held in town hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, February 27.