Like many other older communities with combined sanitary and storm water sewers, Kearny is facing a new federal mandate that will force it to spend big bucks over the next several decades, engineers say.
That directive from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency focuses on the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system which collects storm water runoff and – when the capacity is too much for the system to handle – discharges it, untreated, into a river or waterway.
Right now, Kearny has five CSO outfalls with underground mesh netting cham bers designed to trap floatables as small as a half-inch in normal conditions but during big storm events, that control mechanism becomes overloaded with the rush of flood waters and the overflow is flushed out into the waterway, explained representatives of Neglia Engineering, the town’s consulting engineering firm of Lyndhurst.
“On the average,” according to Neglia’s Patrick J. Carberry, CSO project manager, “that happens 40 times a year at Kearny’s outfalls.”
Now, under a new EPA permitting procedure that will apply to each of the 11 towns that send their wastes to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s Newark treatment plant, “the feds want those overflow events reduced and they want improved outfall treatment,” said Michael Neglia, head of the firm.
“This is going to be a very expensive undertaking,” Neglia told members of the Kearny governing body recently. And, in a follow-up interview with The Observer, he elaborated, saying that, “This is going to be a significant financial burden on all towns involved to comply.”
While Neglia was reluctant to provide a figure, he said this was an issue that towns like Kearny will be grappling with during the next “20 to 40 years.”
Even as things now stand, the town bears a not-so-modest expense just in maintaining the existing 26 nets spread among the five outfalls, said town Public Works Director Gerry Kerr.
Depending on the volume of rainfall and amount of trash collected in the chambers, the town typically replaces all the netting “five to six times a year,” Kerr said, and each round of changes costs about $10,000, he added. Each year, a total of more than 11,000 pounds of accumulated debris are removed, on the average, from the five chambers, he said.
Three of the five outfalls discharge into the Passaic River, off Johnston Ave. near the railroad trestle, Bergen Ave. and Stewart Ave.; the other two, off Duke St. and Ivy St., flow into Frank’s Creek, the engineers said.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, municipalities throughout New Jersey and beyond – (New York State alone has more than 900 CSO locations) – are charged with implementing a plan “to minimize the number of outfalls” and ensure a cleaner effluent during the next five years, Carberry said.
EPA is requiring each permitee to report how much progress has been made by Jan. 31 each year.
To help guide Kearny to achieving these objectives, on Nov. 10 the mayor and Town Council accepted Neglia’s recommendation and voted to retain HDR Inc., a global firm, with offices in Mahwah, specializing in engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services, to work with Neglia on the CSO project for an amount “not to exceed $75,986.”
Among the options that will be explored, Neglia said, are:
• Separating storm and sanitary lines.
• Treating storm water at the outfalls, either with an on-site treatment facility, or by diverting the water to the PVSC plant by eliminating an outfall.
• Providing a facility for the storage of overflow during storm events, either in piping or an underground chamber, for eventual transmission to the PVSC for treatment, Neglia said.
All of these options could, reportedly, cost multi-millions of dollars which Kearny would have to bond – thereby saddling taxpayers with long-term debt obligations – unless it can partner with other towns in a regional approach to the CSO dilemma and/or secure low-interest loans from the N.J. Environmental Infrastructure Trust Fund and/or federal grants to pay for the improvements.