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New Jersey Officials Accused Of Hiding Contaminant In City Water Supply

Pair Allegedly Shut Down Contaminated Wells Before Monthly Water Tests
Harry Mansmann (L), William Mowell (R) (credit: New Jersey Attorney General's Office)

Harry Mansmann (L), William Mowell (R) (credit: New Jersey Attorney General’s Office)

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NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Two top officials of a municipal water authority in New Jersey have been indicted on charges they hid elevated levels of a contaminant in the drinking water supply.

The indictment was handed up Tuesday against Harry Mansmann of Lawrenceville, the executive director of the East Orange Water Commission, and assistant William Mowell, of Wyckoff.

The two are accused of shutting down contaminated wells before monthly water tests to hide elevated levels of tetrachloroethene, an industrial solvent used for dry cleaning and other purposes. The solvent, also known as PERC, is classified as a probable carcinogen.

The charges include conspiracy, official misconduct and violating state environmental laws.

Mansmann’s attorney said his client is innocent and that levels were within federal safety standards at all times. Mowell’s attorney declined comment.

Following the alleged criminal conduct, the Department of Environmental Protection conducted independent tests of the East Orange water system, and samples showed tetrachloroethene levels slightly above state standards but within federal safe drinking water parameters.

The DEP is continuing to monitor the system, New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said.

“It is absolutely unconscionable that the two top directors responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of drinking water supplied to tens of thousands of residents in East Orange and South Orange would deliberately manipulate sampling to hide the fact that the water supply contained elevated levels of a contaminant,” Chiesa said in a press release.

The East Orange Water Commission serves about 71,000 customers in East Orange and 17,000 in South Orange.

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