Hoboken Sues After 15 Water Main Breaks in 2 Months

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CN) – Saying that a rash of water-main breaks has made flooding nearly constant, the city of Hoboken took its sewer operator to court for a solution.

An 8-inch break of the Hoboken water main on Aug. 28 caused flooding on Hudson Street, River Street and Hudson Place, threatening both the PATH system and NJ Transit station, two major commuter systems for the New York City region. (CHRIS FRY, Courthouse News Service)

Hoboken brought the suit in Hudson County Chancery Division on Aug. 29, just a day after yet another main break flooded a street near a massive commuter hub.

Represented by the Roseland firm McManimon, Scotland, & Baumann, the city notes that Suez Water Environmental Services has been operating its water-supply system since 1994.

In the city’s southwest area, Suez began construction on June 23 of a below-grade chamber where it could house two water meters connected to the system that provides Hoboken and nearby Jersey City with potable drinking water. Hoboken says that despite the warm summer weather, breaks have been common since the project began.

Meanwhile Suez has been “unable or unwilling to determine a cause for the frequency of the water main breaks or at least unwilling to advise the city if in fact defendants have determined the cause,” according to the complaint.

Due to Suez’s inaction, the city wants an injunction requiring the company to “cease construction on all capital improvement projects unrelated to the repair of emergency water main breaks.” In addition, they want all studies, reports, and plans on the city’s water system turned over to them.

Suez claimed in a statement, however, that its work is not what is causing the problem.

“More than 50% of Hoboken’s pipes were put in place in the late 1800s and early 1900s,” Suez said in a statement. “They have far outlasted their usefulness. Hoboken’s residents deserve better service from their water system.”

For Suez, the lawsuit is a “waste of time, money and energy that could be better used for solving the real problem causing water main breaks in Hoboken – the age of the system and its pipelines.”

Hoboken meanwhile wants Suez to turn over any information on “the scope of construction occurring on the chamber or any other part of the city’s water system, and any preliminary planning or work done to protect the water system in anticipation of chamber work.” Furthermore they want Suez to prepare a plan of action to prevent future breaks.

“An impaired or unreliable water supply system presents a danger to the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the city, and immediate action is required by the city to both ensure the water supply system is operating effectively and the residents and property in the city are protected from the dangers presented by near constant flooding,” the complaint states.

The most recent disruption happened on Aug. 28, when an 8-inch break caused flooding on Hudson Street, River Street and Hudson Place, threatening both the PATH system and NJ Transit station, two major commuter systems for the New York City region.

The filing says that’s unusual, as “based on the GIS data provided by Suez Operations via ArcGIS online, in the months of June, July and August during the prior five years, there have been a total of 12 reported breaks, as opposed to the 16 breaks that have occurred just in the past six weeks.”

“Since construction of the chamber began 6 weeks ago, the city of Hoboken has experienced no less than fifteen water main breaks, including breaks this month on August 6, 11, 12, 14, 16, 20, 25, 26, 27 and 28, 2018,” the complaint says.

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