A former Ridgewood Water engineer accused of manipulating the water supply in East Orange did not have the access to carry out the alleged deeds in Ridgewood, Ridgewood Water head Frank Moritz says.
The assistant executive director of the East Orange Water Commission (EOWC), William Mowell, 51, of Wyckoff, was indicted Wednesday for allegedly conspiring with the utility's director to manipulate monthly water test results that found higher levels of contaminants in drinking water. The allegations stem from Nov. 2010 to April 2011.
Mowell worked as the chief engineer at Ridgewood Water until he was laid off in July of 2010, according to employment records.
Ridgewood Water serves Wyckoff, Midland Park, Glen Rock and Ridgewood.
He could not have manipulated the water supply in Ridgewood for scheduled monthly tests when he worked in Ridgewood, according to Ridgewood Water's director.
"He was not the keeper of the castle where our tests were resolved," Moritz said. "We have a chief operator, Steve Florence, who takes care of that for us. We don't believe in doing that [allegedly manipulating the water supply and falsifying test results]."
Mowell and EOWC executive director Harry Mansmann are accused of reporting lower levels of the contaminant tetrachlorethene (PERC), an industrial solvent used for dry cleaning. It is classified as a probable carcinogen.
"Working with the DEP, our investigators thoroughly chronicled the actions of these two officials who allegedly manipulated the water supply prior to sampling on multiple occasions, cherry picked the test results they reported to the DEP on another occasion, and pumped water from their most contaminated well into the Passaic River without a permit for nearly a month,” said Division of Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor. "Their alleged conduct is shocking."
Moritz also condemned the alleged tampering.
"Maybe they thought they had good reasons, but that's frightfully silly," he said Wednesday. "It's not the kind of thing that should happen."
They've been charged with conspiracy, multiple counts of official misconduct, pattern of official misconduct, unlawful release of a toxic pollutant, multiple counts of violating the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act, violating the New Jersey Water Pollution Control Act, and tampering with public records or information.
If convicted, Mowell and Mansmann could face more than a decade of prison time while paying thousands in fines.