With the boil water advisory finally lifted, Hoboken and Jersey City seek to hold Suez accountable for its unsuccessful efforts after Hurricane Ida.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said he would work with city council “to hold Suez accountable.” Suez is the private water supplier for Jersey City and Hoboken.
Fulop said on Monday that he had spoken with the CEO of Suez North America and the CEO of its parent company, Suez Environment located in France, and he expects the company to respond with “clear measures and concrete “.
He said based on Suez’s proposals, the city and council would look at next steps, which could include canceling its contract with the water supplier.
“It’s definitely on the table, there are performance clauses, and we think at this point, as I told them, that they take the relationship for granted,” Fulop said in a phone call Monday. . “We’re just not going to take Jersey City for granted.
“I explained to them that just saying ‘I’m sorry’ is not okay at this point, it’s too often saying ‘I’m sorry’.”
Suez defended his response in Hoboken and Jersey City.
“SUEZ emergency personnel have done everything possible to protect the health and safety of residents of Jersey City and Hoboken, repairing the broken water transmission line in Cedar Grove Township, calling for boil water advisory with NJDEP, by flushing water systems. two cities and take water samples to ensure water quality, ”said Rich Henning, SUEZ spokesperson.
This is not the first time that Suez has been in hot water with Jersey City. In August 2020, Suez left elected officials and residents furious after waiting two days to issue a boil water advisory after tests revealed E. coli in the city’s water supply near the ‘Christ hospital.
Suez, formerly known as United Water, has had a contract with Jersey City since 2007 and was renewed in 2017. In 2017, the Jersey Journal discovered that Suez, under its former name, had donated more than 10 $ 800 in Fulop’s second re-election campaign.
Last Thursday, about 24 hours after Hurricane Ida dumped up to eight inches of rain over many parts of northern Jersey, the State Department of Environmental Protection issued a boil water advisory of water after the aqueduct that brings water to Jersey City and Hoboken was damaged by the storm.
Delays in returning clean water have frustrated officials in both cities, with mayors Ravi Bhalla in Hoboken and Fulop publicly expressing their dismay.
“Suez’s performance over the past few days was absolutely unacceptable for what we would expect as Jersey City residents / customers,” Fulop posted on his Facebook on Sunday after a boil water order was lifted after almost four days.
Hoboken spokeswoman Marilyn Baer said Mayor Ravi Bhalla called a meeting with Suez to take place on Tuesday.
Baer added that Bhalla will ask for credit from all taxpayers. It will also require Suez to have a detailed and transparent communication plan for any future issues with the water utility.
“They will be in his office tomorrow to discuss what happened, how it happened and how they are going to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Baer said. “Suez owes the city and its inhabitants an explanation.
But it was the fiasco of trying to bring fresh water to residents of all cities on Friday that led to further frustrations with Suez. Locations set up for residents to receive fresh and bottled water were delayed for a few hours or did not receive enough water.
Fulop said he felt Suez was “dishonest” with the way they communicated water routing to residents. He said Suez’s efforts were a “failure” to stick to this “simple timetable.”
Again, Suez said its staff have done everything in their power to reduce the inconvenience associated with the boil water advisory.
“Our men and women have worked tirelessly and professionally to get the two cities up and running as quickly as possible,” Henning said. “Both administrations pushed us very hard on behalf of their constituents.
“In fact, we even took over the distribution of bottled water, which we can certainly admit was far from perfect, but we managed to distribute over 275,000 bottles, as well as have tankers in many places. “
This report has been updated with a response from Suez.