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The Wrap: Stone Harbor, EPA Adds to Green Agenda, Climate Regulations

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By Herald Staff

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April 8 to 14:

Trouble in Stone Harbor

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This week a Stone Harbor employee has sued the borough, alleging sexual harassment and the existence of a hostile work environment. What the suit did was peel away some of the secrecy surrounding borough council closed sessions.

A little background is needed. Back in early 2023, the council called a public special meeting to fire the town’s administrator, Robert Smith. Since then Smith filed suit against the borough saying he was let go for blowing the whistle on a sitting councilwoman’s husband’s failure to file his required financial disclosure forms as a member of a municipal board. The public has heard of no resolution of this suit yet.

A few months later, the current administrator was hired on a permanent basis by a council that refused the mayor’s urging to go into closed session for the usual give and take over the wisdom of the hire. A month later, the council took the extraordinary step of censuring the mayor for her remarks regarding the hire.

The Herald next reported on the borough clerk’s resignation, which she asserted was the result of sexual harassment and a toxic work environment caused by the new administrator and abetted by the members of the council. She filed a tort claim against the borough for $800,000.

This is the same administrator identified in the recent lawsuit as the source of sexual harassment and a toxic work environment. The lawsuit filed this week also claims the council, through its Administration and Finance Committee, has abetted in the forging of a hostile environment.

Non-union employees of the borough were told they would receive no raises this year. The budget simply could not support it. However, the budget had no problem with a number of expensive appointments that were never discussed with the public.

Now the new lawsuit even shows the administrator allegedly texted a word to describe the mayor, which is not printable according to AP guidelines for newspapers. It was an act, if true, that would not have been tolerated by any other governing body in the county.

EPA Adds to Green Agenda

“The Graduate” / Embassy Pictures

In the 1967 movie “The Graduate,” 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, is at a party thrown by his parents to celebrate his graduation from college. At one point a friend of Ben’s parents takes him aside to share one word with him, just one word for the future. That word was “plastics.”

Now, over 50 years later, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a new rule setting standards for multiple types of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. Fluorinated plastics, and the PFAS they contain, are in stores everywhere and sit on counters in every American home. Products as varied as grease-resistant paper, nail polish, stain resistant coatings used on upholstery, and personal care products have tested positive for PFAS compounds.

This is considered a step in the EPA’s efforts to regulate what are commonly called “forever chemicals.” This rule has major implications for water system operators and waste facility companies.

The rule sets enforceable maximum contaminant levels for drinking water as well as a variety of alphabet soup product levels that public water systems must monitor.

The EPA announced $1 billion in new funding for testing and treating at water facilities which is part of a $9 billion commitment to addressing PFAS issues. If certain water systems cannot access these funds for whatever reason or if more is needed that is available from the EPA, rate hikes for consumers could follow.

The rule is not just important to water system suppliers, since many landfill operators send their leachate to water treatment plants that will now be impacted by the new standards. Leachate is liquids that drain from stockpiled material.

Much of this is very new and not yet fully understood. The rule was issued on April 10. The rule states that public water system operators must complete an initial monitoring for the chemicals within three years and inform the public of the results.

Climate Regulations and Coastal Development

Amy Lutz/Shutterstock.com

A group of 31 environmental organizations are pushing Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to speed up the issuance of new coastal zone regulations. The groups speak to Murphy’s fast approaching end to his second term, calling it an “ever decreasing window for the rules to be proposed and adopted during your tenure.”

The new regulations are expected to include more stringent requirements for coastal development, added stormwater management regulations and new protections for wetlands. The sweeping reforms that Murphy promised as part of the state’s response to climate change are worrisome to coastal communities that have seen significant hikes in property values, due in part to development.

Much of the New Jersey Protection Against Climate Threats (NJPACT) language depicts the land-use regulations as aimed at 2050 climate change realities, which the state says can no longer be altered by any emissions scenarios. This means the rules are aimed at adaption and not prevention.

The devil is in the details. As long as the impact on home development along the coast is unclear, the proposed regulations will be controversial. The push by environmental organizations to speed up the process could also find resistance from business groups who have repeatedly called for better information about the costs associated with new regulations.

Happenings

Inspira informed both Middle and Lower townships that the company was not renewing its contract. The two municipalities are actively seeking a new vendor for emergency medical services.

Avalon officials faced three angry residents over the reports that the borough knew about but did not act in a timely basis concerning multiple violations by a property owner in the high dunes.

A Villas man received a second chance at life with a double lung transplant. His children and grandchildren take on a new importance.

The region may see the expansion of AtlantiCare with newly announced plans for a “medical city” in Pomona. Cooper Health System also expects to enhance its presence in the region with its merger with Cape Regional.

A group of lifeguard lieutenants are suing Avalon hoping to get pensions from the borough. At issue is the interpretation of state law.

Cape May City stayed with ParkMobile as its parking app after completing a bidding process that did result in a better deal for the city.

Middle Township introduced a 2024 budget with a 2.9 cent increase in the local purpose tax. It is the second year in a row in which the township has imposed a tax increase. Offcials look to rising ratables and new income from cannabis retail sales for help with future budget revenues.

A new brewery is coming to Ocean View. The brewery will be located off Route 9 near Sea Isle Boulevard and it comes with a mini-golf course next door.

An aide to Governor Phil Murphy is talking about interim solutions to the standoff between North Wildwood and the Department of Environmental Protection.

A movie will be shot in Cape May City focused on the life of Bob Dylan, played by Timothee Chalamet. The casting company is seeking local talent as extras for a scene about a 1965 concert.

The owners of a vineyard tucked inside a residential neighborhood have reached a settlement with a group of neighbors and Upper Township, after a legal battle over the owners’ proposal to produce wine on the site.

A jury found a Cape May County corrections officer guilty of sexually assaulting a minor. Given the victim’s age, the guilty verdict could bring a sentence of 25 years to life.

Spout Off of the Week

Stone Harbor – The 7 Mile Island is coming apart at the seams. An illegal lawn on a McMansion property on the dunes in Avalon. Complaints of “poo” on the beach and pickleball court times.
Parking fines on 96th Street, the fire truck purchase and now sexual harassment from a Stone Harbor Administrator. Memorial Day weekend is several weeks away and already it begins!

Read more Spout Off at https://spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com

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