Day: October 5, 2022

Mayor Gusciora Dispels Water Department Lies from Council Leadership

October 5, 2022

Photos by: Brian McCarthy, OnScene News

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–During a press conference at Trenton Water Works (TWW) water filtration plant, Mayor Reed Gusciora pushed back on recent statements by City Council President Kathy McBride, and others, about the water utility’s operations.

Gusciora highlighted several resolutions and ordinances that the City Council leadership has rejected, tabled, or barred from the docket which impeded efforts to improve operations at TWW. Council actions stopped capital projects and weakened the water utility’s workforce, operations, water treatment, and distribution systems. For a partial list of measures blocked by City Council, click here.

“I’ve kept my promise to modernize Trenton Water Works and improve its operations, reversing nearly 50 years of underinvestment,” said Mayor Gusciora. “But at every turn, certain councilmembers obstructed our process. They weaponized the word ‘no,’ abandoning their fiduciary responsibilities and obligations to the residents of Trenton and water-utility ratepayers.”

Some parts of TWW’s distribution and treatment systems are decades old and require maintenance or replacement. The Gusciora administration has presented resolutions and ordinances to finance this work, but many of the most critical measures were blocked by Council, jeopardizing TWW’s ability to undertake capital work (i.e. 12345) in a timely and cost-effective manner.

For example, a $15 million bond measure to continue removing lead service lines in the TWW system and at private homes was voted down by Council, costing the City an opportunity to receive a match for half the funding. The obstruction amounted to a $7.5 million loss and an immediate halt to TWW’s lead service line program that had already replaced nearly 10,000 lead service lines with copper ones.

That copper tubing, as well as an array of fittings, water meters, and other supplies were also withheld by Council. Council leaders failed to authorize purchase of these supplies, causing TWW’s Meter Shop and Construction & Maintenance units to cancel appointments and delay work.

“It was this council leadership that threw money down the drain by spending $250,000 on a so-called forensic audit without a single criminal referral or final report,” he said. “They then had the audacity to request another $250,000 to continue looking in books that already are annually audited by an independent firm.”

A top TWW objective, stressed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and supported by the administration, is decommissioning the Pennington Avenue Reservoir. Council effectively stopped TWW’s decentralized water storage project by blocking the demolition of buildings at 942 Prospect Street, the proposed site of the first 8-million-gallon water tank as part of the decommissioning process.

In another instance of shortsightedness, Council stopped engineering work and blocked a bond ordinance to replace a 1.8-mile water main on Olden Avenue in Ewing Township, an area plagued in recent years by frequent water main breaks.

On Thursday evening, the Council will vote on two critical resolutions that will enable TWW to improve water quality throughout its service area, including Hamilton Township, which is addressing several cases of legionnaires’ disease. The first resolution is for the purchase of equipment to flush dead-end water mains in the distribution system, and the second resolution is to accept a grant for detecting leaks to reduce costly systemwide water loss.

“I have never encountered such persistent interference with government efforts to meet the needs of local residents, especially with a service as fundamental as providing clean and safe drinking water,” Gusciora said. “I have faith that our residents will send capable public servants to City Hall next year, so that we can reverse the damage caused by this governing body. While Council leadership seeks to absolve itself from any responsibility, their track record of obstruction and inaction is well documented.”

Gusciora noted Council President McBride’s continuous confusion of ongoing topics, including confusing bonding authority with specific bond spending.

“Kathy McBride continually states that TWW should use underspent bond money on other projects.  However, if a project costs less than the bond authority, the excess is not spent, nor can it be spent, on other projects,” he said. “In addition, the Council President confuses ratepayers with taxpayers, claiming that all water costs are borne exclusively by Trenton. I am sure the ratepayers in Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell, and Lawrence would vehemently disagree with that statement. The costs are shared among the five service municipalities through TWW’s ratepayers.”

TWW supplies approximately 28 million gallons of water per day to 217,000 consumers in a service area comprised of parts or all of Trenton, Ewing Township, Hamilton Township, Lawrence Township, and Hopewell Township.

TWW is one of the oldest and largest publicly-owned water systems in the United States. Purchased by the City in 1859, they operate a 60-million-gallon water filtration plant and water distribution system that consists of a 100-million-gallon reservoir, 683 miles of water mains, three pump stations, nearly 8,000 valves, 3,517 fire hydrants, and six interconnections between TWW and other water suppliers. TWW serves approximately 63,000 metered customers.

Trenton, NJ Woman Busted Trafficking 15,000 “Rainbow Fentanyl” Pills In New York City

October 5, 2022

NEW YORK CITY – A 48-year-old, Trenton, NJ, woman was arrested and approximately 15,000 fentanyl pills were seized as part of an ongoing investigation into a fentanyl trafficking organization. The fentanyl pills, in various colors, were destined for distribution throughout New York City and had been concealed in a LEGO box to deter law enforcement attention. The fentanyl pills were also imprinted with “M” and “30” to resemble “30 M”, Oxycodone Hydrochloride 30 mg pills.

This significant seizure, the largest to date in New York City, signals more widespread distribution of these dangerous colorful pills. The case highlights Mexican cartels’ most recent tactics to attract the public while deceiving them about the lethal drugs. The Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel are mass-producing fentanyl pills in rainbow colors to not only brand their products, but use colors and dyes to mimic candy and/or legitimate prescription drugs

Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Division, Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell and New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen announced the seizure and arrest following the arraignment of Latesha Bush of Trenton, NJ.

Defendant Charges
Latesha Bush, Trenton, N.J. Age: 48CPCS 1st – 1 ct., CPCS 3rd – 1 ct.

“Rainbow fentanyl is a clear and present danger, and it is here in New York City,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino.  “Approximately forty percent of the pills we analyze in our lab contain a lethal dose; and in a recent 15-week enforcement operation, DEA New York seized half a million lethal pills. These staggering statistics underscore the importance of reminding the public that just one pill can kill; and this operation alone removed the equivalent of 500,000 lethal doses of fentanyl from circulation in the Empire State. In the same reporting period, DEA seized the equivalent of over 36 million lethal doses nationally.” 

NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said, “Using happy colors to make a deadly drug seem fun and harmless is a new low, even for the Mexican cartels. Fentanyl is already involved in more than 80% of overdose deaths in the city. If you take any drug sold on the street or through the internet, regardless of its medicinal markings or festive appearance, you risk your life.  My office and our partners are committed to intercepting lethal fentanyl and ensuring that these rainbow-colored pills don’t lead more people down a sad path of substance use and overdose death.”

New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “I want to thank our members and law enforcement partners for their unwavering work in stopping the flow of illegal drugs throughout our state.  The arrest of Latesha Bush and the seizure of these lethal drugs are the direct result of a commitment to aggressively target and pursue criminals who perpetuate the distribution of these narcotics. Together, we will continue to eliminate these operations and those who seek to destroy the quality of life within our communities.”

A criminal complaint filed by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP) charges Bush, of Trenton, N.J., with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First and Third Degrees.

Bush, was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday, September 30, 2022. Bail was set at $25,000 cash/$150,000 insurance company bond/$100,000 partially secured surety bond.

The investigation was conducted by DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (NYDETF) Group T-12, which is comprised of agents and officers with DEA New York Division and the New York City Police Department.  SNP’s Investigators Unit assisted in the investigation.

On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, at approximately 7:11 p.m., members of NYDETF Group T-12 were conducting surveillance as part of an ongoing investigation into narcotics trafficking when they allegedly observed Bush carrying what appeared to be a black tote bag wrapped around a large object as she entered a vehicle in front of 475 10th Avenue in Manhattan.

Upon stopping the vehicle, agents and officers allegedly found Bush in the rear seat, with two black tote bags and a yellow LEGO container also in the rear seat. Inside the LEGO container were several brick-shaped packages covered in black tape lying next to LEGO blocks. The black tape covering one of the packages had been partially opened, exposing multi-colored pills inside. A subsequent examination of the packages revealed they contained approximately 15,000 pills.

During the investigation, agents and officers learned that just prior to the arrest, Bush had travelled from New Jersey to the vicinity of 475 10th Avenue in a rental car. Agents and officers also learned that the multi-colored fentanyl pills allegedly originated in Mexico.

DEA laboratory analysis of the narcotics seized in New York is pending. Preliminary testing indicated the presence of fentanyl.

Last week the DEA announced the results of the third phase of the One Pill Can Kill initiative focused on combatting the fake pill threat which led to the seizure of more than 10.2 million fentanyl pills and approximately 980 pounds of fentanyl powder during the period of May 23 through Sept. 8, 2022. The amount of fentanyl taken off the streets during this surge is equivalent to more than 36 million lethal doses removed from the illegal drug supply. Additionally, 338 weapons were seized, including rifles, shotguns, pistols, and hand grenades. There were 390 cases investigated during this period, 51 cases are linked to overdose poisonings and 35 cases link directly to one or both of the primary Mexican cartels responsible for the majority of fentanyl in the United States – the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). In addition, 129 investigations are linked to social media platforms, including Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and TikTok.   

Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino thanked the New York City Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, the New York City Police Department, the New York State Police,  SNP’s Special Investigations Bureau and Investigators Unit and Group T-12 of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force. 

Rainbow fentanyl pills trafficked in a LEGP container seized in NY.

The charges and allegations are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.