News Briefs: ​Bill Tampering for Bribes Earns Utility Worker Five Years in Prison

In this week's sewer and water news, a man from Toms River, New Jersey, is sentenced to five years in prison for lowering customers' water bills in exchange for bribes

A man from Toms River, New Jersey, was sentenced to five years in prison for scheming to reduce water and sewer bills for customers in exchange for bribes.

Joseph DeBonis, 56, was a senior account clerk for New Brunswick Water Department. He sometimes operated with an accomplice, William Ortiz, who would ask for bribes from customers and arrange for DeBonis to reduce the bills if they paid. reports the schemes would sometimes reduce the bills by as much as 90%.

Bills were reduced to roughly 50 properties over a few years and the bribes the men took totaled around $20,000.

Newark to Tackle Lead Pipes with New $155 Million Lease Agreement    

Newark, New Jersey, is set to receive $155 million in a new lease agreement from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to help replace lead service lines, according to Mayor Ras Baraka.

The mayor held a press conference about the agreement, saying that Port Authority officials have agreed to give the city an additional $5 million (on top of the annual $110 million contribution) for the next 30 years. Newark will also receive $5 million up front.

City officials are planning to use the extra funds on debt service toward a $120 million loan that will expedite Newark’s efforts to replace lead service lines.

President Signs Bill to Give New Jersey $100 Million in Water Infrastructure Funding

In related news, President Donald Trump signed a bill in to law recently that will give New Jersey access to $100 million in federal funding for water infrastructure projects, including those that prevent lead from leaching into drinking water.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker, former mayor of Newark. It allows states a one-time transfer of funds from its Clean Water State Revolving Fund to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

“Every day, children and families are facing the realities of our country’s aging infrastructure and worrying about the safety of their drinking water,” Booker says in a statement. “The federal government has a responsibility to restore their peace of mind and this legislation will give states desperately needed resources to repair and upgrade their drinking water systems.”

Ohio Congressman Introduces $100 Billion Bill to Fight Lead

Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio recently introduced a bill to invest $100 billion to remove lead pipes and lead paint from homes across the United States — which is enough to eliminate every lead pipe in the country.

The proposal establishes a Department of Housing and Urban Development grant program to help states fund eligible activities such as performing risk assessments and inspections, providing interim control and abatement of lead-based pipe hazards, assisting with relocation for families forced to vacate their homes, and educating the public on the risks and causes of lead poisoning. 

Further, it requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator to establish minimum standards and protocols for authorized state programs, contractor training and certification, lead abatement and measurement, and other lead exposure reduction activities. To view the full text of the bill, click here


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