Citing a 2018 fatal fire where an empty fire hydrant allegedly cost a 42-year-old woman her life, Bayonne 3rd Ward council hopeful Peter Franco says electeds need to hold Suez Water accountable.
His latest campaign video opens by stating Ruvee Yao was killed in a fire about four years ago, noting that a tort claim filed by Yao’s mother said there was no water in the closest fire hydrant when first responders arrived.
When discussing a fire at 126 West 27th St. last year where two firefighters were injured, Fire Chief Keith Weaver told The Jersey Journal 15 to 30 hydrants in the city are inoperable at any give time due to age, also stating that it is up to Suez to maintain them.
“Holding Suez accountable isn’t just about water rates, it’s about protecting our environment. It’s about public safety, it’s about protecting Bayonne lives,” the video concludes.
“A bright young woman might still be alive today if not for the negligence of Suez and our city’s failed oversight. My heart goes out to Ruvee’s mother Ruth, her family, and our brave fire fighters … We owe it to every Bayonne resident to ensure there isn’t a single fire hydrant out of order,” Franco added in a statement.
He also talked about holding Suez accountable in his unsuccessful run for the vacant 1st Ward council seat in 2019.
Suez faced scrutiny this election cycle for issuing a mailer touting their partnership with the City of Bayonne, as well as for past contributions to Mayor Jimmy Davis’ campaign.
Suez spokesman Chris Halleron said that since becoming an operating partner with Bayonne about a decade ago, the company has repaired or replaced 278 of the city’s 995 hydrants – part of a $157 million commitment to restore their infrastructure.
“Officials on the scene cited the building’s difficult internal structure as the complicating factor in that tragic four-alarm fire, which ended up burning for over three hours,” he said in a statement.
“While the Bayonne Fire Department has gone on record to state that the outage of a single fire hydrant is ‘not an operational issue of putting out a fire,’ SUEZ continues to meet monthly with Bayonne’s bravest and provides updates on work done throughout the City’s water system.”
Halleron also said 99.4 percent of the city’s hydrants are currently fully functional and plans are in place to work with the Bayonne Fire Department to restore the remaining few, adding on Wednesday that the hydrant in question from 2018 was in service and that the Bayonne Fire Department moved to another hydrant after they set up a collapse zone.
The non-partisan Bayonne municipal elections are on May 10th.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from Suez Water spokesman Chris Halleron.