THEN AND NOW
In the advent of the Clean Water Act, existing treatment facilities throughout New Jersey found themselves inundated with changing regulatory requirements wherein the current methods and efficiency requirements of treating wastewater were dramatically changed. For the most part, municipalities from all corners of the state were grappling with how to respond to the new Federal Standards, particularly when they were plagued with failing antiquated treatment facilities that were generally under funded, under staffed and now under a high degree of scrutiny. Our rivers, lakes and ocean were being polluted; recreational utilization of these water bodies was adversely affected and if left unabated, then public health was at risk. Clearly a parallel can be found between the five rampant beach closings, fish kills, and accelerated eutriphication and an impairment of water bodies across the state with the operation of these facilities.
The municipalities of Belmar, Spring Lake, Spring Lake Heights, Sea Girt and Manasquan had for many years been operating Primary Treatment Facilities and discharging effluent on the near shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Primary treatment basically consists of the removal of all settleable solids and chlorination, and at best reduces the B.O.D. and suspended solids content of raw sewage by 30%.
Provisions within the Clean Water Act provided for Federal & State relief with respect to funding major portions of projects which were required to be undertaken at the local level, provided that rigid rules and guidelines were adhered to, namely the consolidation or regionalization of multiple local facilities in single larger ones.
The municipalities of Belmar, Brielle, Lake Como, Manasquan, Spring Lake, Spring Lake Heights, Sea Girt, and a large portion of Wall Township fell into a newly defined drainage area. After several more years of planning and discovery, these eight municipalities ultimately created the South Monmouth Regional Sewerage Authority (SMRSA) in May of 1970.
In order to provide for regional treatment, a series of infrastructure improvements were required including (1) eleven pumping stations which pump wastewater from the concentration points of the gravity collection systems of the incorporating municipalities; (2) a system of interceptor sewers and force mains to convey wastewater from the pumping stations to the treatment plant; (3) a 9-million gallon per day secondary treatment plant located in Wall Township, employing trickling filters and stabilization ponds including sludge digestion; (4) an outfall sewer extending from the plant to the ocean-front; (5) a diffuser system extending 4700 feet offshore; (6) administration facilities.
To construct these facilities the SMRSA had by 1977 spent in excess of $35,000,000. The disbursement of that debt was as follows:
Total Debt $35,000,000
Federal Grants $22,000,000
New Jersey Grants $ 5,250,000
SMRSA Revenue Bonds $ 7,750,000
Throughout the 1980s the facility’s operation was in general compliance with discharge limitations established in its permits. As the 1990s approached total treated flows continued to increase primarily due to the development and sewering of once rural sections of Wall Township.
Although not nearing its design capacity, the Treatment Plant began to experience major operational problems that resulted in off-site odors that clearly affected the enjoyment and use of private properties in nearby neighborhoods of both Wall Township and Spring Lake Heights. By 1989 the situation became so out of hand that citations from regulatory agencies were becoming fiscally encumbering. If the situation continued to remain unattended, history was about to repeat itself. In less than a generation three communities were finding themselves back in non-compliance with water quality standards and adversely impacting the coastal tourism revenues so desperately needed to support the revenue side of their respective local budgets. If swift and comprehensive action were not taken immediately, their investment of $35,000,000 would be a total loss.
A thorough and independent evaluation of the operational problems was undertaken and from the onset it was clear that the causes of the problems were far reaching, widespread, and would require sweeping changes in the general business and operations management philosophies being utilized as well as the infusion of significant capital expenses over time.
What follows is a brief summation of the corrective action program, which was put in place and remains ongoing to this date.
I. ASSET MANAGEMENT
Implementation of an asset management type approach provided the authority with a unique opportunity to examine in detail the current and future condition of its facilities as well as the effect of various maintenance decisions on financial aspects of the authority. The SMRSA asset management approach was broken down into several basic steps. The first was outlining a strategic vision for the program including defining the objectives and strategies for the program. The second involved performing an inventory of the physical assets, followed by an operational and financial evaluation of each. The third step was to link the operations and maintenance (O&M) program with the capital improvement plan (CIP). The last steps involve the analysis of the best replacement/repair/retire strategy for each asset and the implementation of the asset management program. When used in conjunction with a financial analysis, this management approach has provided a direction for the future on how to provide for maximum benefit from facilities in the most cost effective manner. Examples of projects and programs that have been undertaken as a result of this approach are as follows:
A. Staffing and Training – Throughout the early 1990s it had become apparent to the SMRSA that the rate of equipment malfunctions, emergency repairs, overtime, and potential for discharge permit violations were on the rise.
The Authority’s commissioners upon recognizing these problems had tasked senior management with evaluating the causes and recommending long-term solutions.
Upon a comprehensive review of existing O&M practices, staffing and training, it became clear that the obstacles, which needed to be overcome were few; however, each would have its own degree of complexity and would require solutions based upon their own merits. They are as follows:
B. Management System – The existing management system had been set up in the 1970s before the plant was up and running and it had been structured largely by the engineers that prepared the O&M manuals for the wastewater treatment facility. This system inherently fostered a “we against them” situation, and did not promote incentives or the desire to succeed and achieve. Additional problems of the original management system were: its inability to delegate responsibility, its lack of methods to create incentives, improve morale and most importantly its inability to allow for the interaction of different departments on a day-to-day basis. These inherent flaws led to a mindset of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and “things will never change” at all levels of the staff.
C. Training Requirements and Procedures – It was clear from the onset of investigation that the existing methods of training were grossly inadequate and for the most part may have contributed significantly to equipment failures, down time, and a reduced level of overall treatment efficiency that was plaguing the facility. Basically, staff at random had been trained in generic type courses relating to broad areas of the wastewater treatment industry. Individuals who had received specific training on equipment or processes either did not practice what they had learned or did not adequately convey these procedures to their peers, which resulted in unregimented maintenance practices, and lackadaisical operating procedures. It seemed that every employee had a different way (his own way) of accomplishing the same tasks, which led directly to increased costs in contract support services, as equipment failures were complex and numerous.
Senior management was tasked with quickly modernizing the existing management structure while at the same time revitalizing the entire staff’s performance and self-confidence through increased efficiency by comprehensive training, providing a safer work place, and getting the overall staff more involved in the day-to-day decision-making process.
As a result of the foregoing and a need to reorganize, the Authority approved changes in Union personnel to middle management, established new positions along with new salaries, titles and responsibilities.
The new management approach was wonderfully successful from the beginning. It allowed the Superintendent to provide his operational skills and experience evenly and more rapidly through his managers and then to the staff members. The new managers rose to the occasion and demonstrated their leadership ability and expertise while providing motivation to each employee. The cooperation between departments improved and as individuals learned each other’s jobs, they began to understand the “big picture”.
Management and Union members now work hand-in-hand for the betterment of the Authority. The entire staff, now more than ever, works in harmony with a spirit of cooperation, pride and a real sense of individual achievement.
Collectively, management and Union staff have developed a comprehensive training and education program that reaches out and affects all staff members at every level of the Authority. New employee and entry level training criteria and guidelines have been established. An incentive program has been put into effect to encourage and reward applicable staff members in becoming licensed operators or skilled mechanics journeymen. This program has been extremely successful wherein, to date; over 75% of all eligible staff members now hold New Jersey Treatment and Collection licenses. Prior to the aforementioned reorganization less than 5% were licensed. The advantages to the Authority have been staggering through significant reduction in sludge disposal costs and the elimination of utilizing alternate fuels for the heating of plant buildings and structures. Other in-house programs that were developed are listed in brief, below.
A. Development of “Good Neighbor Policy” informing public as to our odor control policy and the development of a hotline to answer complaints and describe the reasons for temporary odors or truck traffic, and other operations, which may impact the community.
B. Development of a complex pre-treatment program in concert with the main plant operation, which provides off-site odor control and enhanced treatability of waste from System pump stations.
C. Establishment of Confined Space Entry Program, which the NJDEP has used as a model for other authorities. The Monmouth County Health Department also has used this authority’s program for its training of personnel.
D. Implementation of the monthly municipality-reporting requirement relative to conditions at the respective collection systems. This implementation program is one of the first and is required under Title 7 of the NJDEP Administration Code.
E. Put in place a Journeyman Program for Mechanics. This program is one developed by the U.S. Department of Labor and includes progressive education and training in electrical and mechanical skills specifically geared for wastewater facilities.
II. ODOR CONTROL AND ABATEMENT
The complaints of the neighbors surrounding the plant were serious, numerous and the conditions grew worse. In early January 1990, the SMRSA began negotiations with the NJDEP and developed an ACO (Administrative Consent Order). The ACO put into place an agreement that set in place realistic milestones with hard and fast deadlines for the abatement of the odors, while at the same time stipulating them from further fines and penalties so long as the milestones and deadlines were successfully met.
Taking a more innovative approach to the problem, SMRSA contracted with an engineering firm to develop a downdraft system that would effectively control odors. The downdraft concept was a major saving over the more costly and conventional solid covers, used in many plants, which if applied here at SMRSA had an order of cost magnitude of $3,000,000.00.
The Authority’s wastewater treatment plant was the first in the United States to use a specially designed system utilizing downdraft induced air ventilation (of rock-media trickling filters) to capture and treat odors.
The air-handling system can be controlled by the plant operator to treat the appropriate amount of air to meet the weather and atmospheric conditions. The entire system operates throughout the late spring and summer, however, during the winter months, at certain times, it is only necessary to run half of the system.
This example of an innovative process, (1) to eliminate odor pollution in the community, and (2) remain in permit compliance, was a major success and milestone in the overall improvement of our facility. The ACO was satisfied and the odor fines of $180,000 were reduced to $60,000. The cost (including engineering design and resident engineering) was approximately $1.9 million.
III. COLLECTION SYSTEM CONTROLS
The Authority undertook an evaluation of its eleven existing wastewater-pumping stations and associated force mains in an attempt to identify and correct operational deficiencies associated with these facilities that were having a negative impact on the treatment plants ability to operate efficiently and to optimize their day-to-day operations. The following are the key considerations that prompted the SMRSA to address these conditions:
A. The existing pump stations were either constructed or converted for their present uses approximately 20-25 years ago and are equipped with outdated and inefficient, wound rotor motor flow matching controls.
B. Operation of the existing pumps under present conditions frequently results in wide fluctuations in flows measured at the wastewater treatment facility, which were the direct cause to operational problems at the wastewater treatment facility.
C. The desire to optimize the energy utilization associated with the pumping facilities in an attempt to lower overall operating costs.
D. The desire to optimize the present odor control methods in an attempt to lower overall operating costs.
Utilizing historical data, the Authority prepared a computer-based hydraulic model of the existing pump stations and associated force mains. The model was used to evaluate the performance of each individual facility under a variety of flow conditions against the complex system head relationship resulting from the interaction of each facility. The model proved to be an efficient tool for analyzing the complex hydraulic system under both present day and future conditions. In addition, the model was useful in screening the effectiveness of alternative pump station improvement scenarios. The average hydraulic loading condition was calibrated against actual flow data measured at the wastewater treatment plant and at various pump stations and provided the basis for development and analysis of additional model runs to evaluate minimum and peak flows.
In addition to evaluating the pumping system hydraulics, the model was also used to evaluate the energy utilization of the existing pump drives and recommended future improvements. The energy evaluation focused on determining if each facility possessed the most efficient pump and motor size and also addressed the relative efficiency of the existing Autocon Reactospeed drives under existing flow conditions for each pump station.
The energy evaluation of the SMRSA’s pump stations were performed using the results of the computer model runs under average flow conditions. Since this scenario presents the average operating condition of the pump stations, it can be used to represent the long-term average energy usage of each facility.
To use the Pitney Avenue Pump Station as an example, the existing efficiency was estimated to be 39%, which is say it is 61% inefficient. The use of variable frequency drives (VFDs) is one way in, which the SMRSA has elected to increase overall system efficiency. In the case of the Pitney Avenue Pump Station, the system efficiency could be raised 20% through the use of VFD’s. At an improved efficiency of 59% (41% inefficient), the amount of energy wasted would be reduced to 71.9 kilowatt-hours. The resultant savings would be approximately $3.13 per day. In pump stations with larger motors, the savings would be significantly higher. The costs to increase overall efficiencies were evaluated for each Pump Station and when compared against each other, a payback period was then calculated. Those ranged from 1.6 years to greater than 20 years, and were utilized to prioritize the needed improvements and identify where the Authority would begin to realize energy savings the earliest. Overall energy savings realized as a result of this program are in the order of magnitude of 20 % on an annual basis.
IV. TRICKLING FILTER MEDIA REPLACEMENT
As mentioned earlier, the covenants of the Clean Water Act and its amendments required treatment agencies to become more efficient and provide services beyond Primary Treatment.
The process utilized at the SMRSA to accomplish this is commonly known as Two Stage High Rate Trickling Filtration and are best defined as two 186-foot diameters by seven-foot deep towers. Trickling Filters attempt to duplicate the natural purification process that occurs when polluted wastewater enters a receiving stream and trickles over a rocky bed or rocky river bottom. In the natural purification process bacteria and microorganisms in the rock bed remove soluble organic pollutants and purify the water stream.
In the originally installed Trickling Filters at the SMRSA the material utilized as media to support bacterial growth was riprap type stone and was at the time of design considered to be state of the art.
The reactors at SMRSA were meeting all applicable standards into the early 1990s, however as an asset they were rapidly depreciating and at the end of their useful lifecycle. In fact the losses in efficiency were beginning to affect the facilities ability to meet newly established Water Quality Based Effluent Limitations (WQBEL). SMRSA staff embarked on a fact finding and discovery period of nearly 1-1/2 years to determine the most cost effective approach in maintaining this most critical portion of the facilities secondary system. Ultimately the application of Synthetic Based Cross Flow Modular Media was selected and over the next two years both reactors were retrofitted in addition to having all ancillary equipment either modernized or overhauled. The project was so successful that not only does the Facility consistently meet all WQBEL it in fact may have built a reserve secondary capacity by virtue of the type and style media selected. The actual design consideration and site-specific standards of construction that were developed by SMRSA staff and incorporated into the contract documents quickly became the standard of design for the industry. Leading media manufacturers now find themselves incorporating into their designs and installation instructions the valuable lessons learned at the SMRSA.
V. SOLIDS HANDLING
The SMRSA’s digestion facilities have operated well since start up in 1977. However, with increasing costs for sludge disposal, and with the continuation of build out within the sanitary sewer service area, it was clear that an efficient Sludge Management Program would be a critical factor in maintaining stable User Rates in the upcoming years. It is with this in mind that the Authority had tasked its Operating Staff with the assignment of evaluating the efficiency of its Sludge Management Program, which would include:
- Reviewing operation and maintain practices
- Implementing cost effective improvements
- Evaluating impacts of the improvements
- Establishing long-range benchmarks and objectives
In order to assess the Sludge Management Program the operating staff quickly developed the criteria for establishing an Evaluation Team whose members ultimately came from the:
- Operations Division
- Laboratory Division
- Mechanical Division
- Superintendent’s Office
The Evaluation Teams’ approach involved a thorough evaluation of each of the following critical areas:
1. Plant-Wide Characterization of Solids
c. Primary and Secondary Sludges
d. Primary and Secondary Grease and Scums
e. Digester Supernatant
2. Sample and Data Gathering
a. Achieving representative results
c. Collection Methodologies
d. Data Summarization & Distribution
3. Anaerobic Digester Operations
a. Digester feeding
b. Temperature control (heat system)
c. Mixing Characterization
d. Sludge transferring
e. Sludge withdrawal
f. Supernatant withdrawal
g. Data Acquisition, Analysis and Interpretation
4. Digester Gas Management Plan
a. Gas Characterization
b. Production Gas Utilization
c. Waste Gas Utilization
d. Service Gas Utilization
5. Training/Data Distribution
a. Standard Operating Procedures
b. Data Acquisition and Distribution
d. Continued audit of O&M Programs
The review of these and many other critical areas have resulted in considerable savings and benefits to the Authority in the form of decreased annual volumes of sludges for disposal, increased digester gas production and re-utilization along with overall improved operating efficiencies of the entire facility. The methane recovered from the digestion process was used as fuel for the digester heat exchanger boilers and for seasonal building heating, as required. Excess methane created by the digesters is being flared in a waste gas burner. The design of a 30 KW digester gas fired micro-turbine generator quickly ensued as the Authority saw yet another opportunity to apply current technology with exceptional pay back that could further reduce its increasing energy demands. The micro-turbine is presently in operation and aides in offsetting the overall expenses applied to energy throughout the Authority.
Moreover the entire staff has an increased general awareness and renewed enthusiasm which will continue to develop into new and improved concepts with regard to meeting the future sludge management needs of the Authority.
Consequently and as a result of the foregoing investigation and discovery it was determined that most of the systems associated with the sludge digestion system are original and reaching the end of their useful life. In addition to age and/or obsolescence the digester covers have also begun to show signs of pinholeing, with only temporary repairs having been made to date. These systems were in need of modification, replacement or upgrade. Again the concept of asset management was applied and in 2004 the Authority had designed and publicly bid the repair and renovation of the digester complex, with construction currently under way. The onset of construction would require the complete shut down of the entire Digestor complex, which could extend for a period of nearly two years. The anticipated loss of this critical treatment process and the fiscal burden of emptying its contents left the SMRSA facing extra ordinary sludge management and disposal costs. Again, sound planning and the asset management approach were put into action. The SMRSA staff designed, procured, installed and placed into operation a gravity belt sludge thickener at a capital cost of $122,000.00. Once in operation the interim solids handling system effectively reduced the disposal costs of cleaning the digester to approximately one third which in actuality meant the capital investment had a payback of less than 60 days. The staff continued to utilize the system throughout the long period of construction and has effectively saved the Authority from passing on to its users inflated solids handling cost of approximately $300.00 day for the two year period of construction.
Further evaluation of the system is on-going and concepts of permanently employing the use of this device in concert with the Digestion Process remain ongoing.
VI. EXPANSION OF SERVICES
During the 1990s there were obviously a multitude of complex and multi-disciplined activities on-going at the SMRSA which were the result of recently modified operation and maintenance procedures being coupled with the newly introduced and fast tracked asset management approach.
Previous changes in overall plant and systems management practices were obviously paying off and with a staff that was clearly more educated and possessing a renewed vigor, the SMRSA was more than ever capable of taking on rehabilitation projects in house which in fact was evidenced by increasing accomplishments and decreasing consulting engineering fees.
A special project line item was modified into the operating budget and large-scale projects were now being accomplished without bonding and without significant impacts on the user charges. Listed below is a brief itemization of those accomplishments.
- Enclosure of the Treatment Plant Headworks
- Expanded Auxiliary Power Systems
- Retro fitting of all settling tanks longitude and cross collector systems from steel to non-metallic
- Introduction of Flameless Flare Technology
- Rebuilding of four Archimedes Scum Pumps
- Replacement of the leveling and stabilization pond liner systems
In and around the year 2000 as the public became increasingly educated with respect to environmental issues and moreover as they began to see the extremely positive effects of prior pollution abatement efforts, the SMRSA took this opportunity to expand its service to the public.
As water quality regulations became more complex and the focus began to shift from point source to non-point source pollution the SMRSA staff in conjunction with its Board of Commissioners began to share its resources with a host of newly formed watershed groups. In fact the SMRSA in-house NJ Certified Laboratory was able to (at nominal cost to SMRSA and no cost to the watershed groups) performed analysis on nearly all of the major watersheds that lie within or border its service area. This effort coupled with the skills and abilities of other SMRSA staff has proven to be an invaluable asset in establishing real-time water quality data for the purposes of assessing and profiling the respective watershed, and has proven to be a vital tool in monitoring and addressing the following issues:
- Erosion in the watersheds
- Sediment loads and depositions at Wreck Pond and other existing
- Impoundments in the watersheds
- Fecal coliform, loads and discharge
- Beach closings
- Stream base flow to maintain/improve dilution factors
- Stream peak flow and the connection to stream bank erosion and sediment transport
- Steam passing flow and potential as a future surface water supply.
- Existing impoundments as stormwater management, scenic and recreation features
- Municipal stormwater management planning efforts
At current, the Monmouth County Planning Board has agreed to proceed with development of a Regional Stormwater Management Plan for the Wreck Pond Brook watershed. The SMRSA has become an active participant in that process which is intended to provide the following:
- Update the 1996 Wreck Pond Brook and Old Mill Pond Watershed Management Study
- Prepare a build-out analysis based on municipal zoning
- Inventory existing stormwater management features
- Prepare a hydrologic analysis organize hydrologic data and features to demonstrate how the system functions. Analysis will include demonstrations of hydrologic and water quality change as land use/land cover changes and as stormwater management features are installed, altered or eliminated
- Identify current regulations and how they are utilized with respect to flooding, impacts to private property with respect to stormwater discharges from adjacent land and the TMDL procedure. Identify any stream segments included in the 2004 Integrated List (Sub list 5) that may be influenced by stormwater discharge
- Identify and rank current and potential water quality concerns. Identify any TMDL targets that have been adopted
- Identify and rank any surface water and groundwater quantity issues
- Identify stormwater related impacts associated with current and future land use
- Suggest standards consistent with New Jersey’s Design and Performance
- Standards for Stormwater Management Measures that need to be met to eliminate, reduce or minimize impacts
Another example of expanded service is in the area of Sanitary Sewer Inflow and Infiltration remediation. Over three decades have gone by since the conception of SMRSA, and as eluded to elsewhere herein, all of the assets owned by SMRSA and in this case the member municipalities have fixed lifecycles. The member municipality owned sanitary sewers in the year 2000, for the most part ranged between 25 to 100 years of age. As a result of these aging infrastructures the SMRSA, particularly during seasonable periods of wet weather began to experience abnormally high and at times unmanageable influent rates of flow. In fact, on several events, the treatment plant influent flow rates exceeded its design capacity by nearly 200%. These extraordinary rates of flow were caused entirely by the aging infrastructures and resultant inflow and infiltration. Such that the reader may have a comprehensive understanding of both Infiltration and Inflow the following definitions are offered:
The admission of extraneous flow sources into a sanitary sewer system that generally speaking can be viewed as the cause for large (and rapid) spikes in flow that are normally sustained throughout the course of the extraneous discharge. Typical sources of inflow include low laying manholes, sump pump discharges, unauthorized connection of roof drains and swimming pools, and the cross connection of sanitary and storm sewer systems.
The admission of extraneous flow sources into a sanitary sewer system that are generally lower in the rate of flow than sources of inflow but are sustained for much longer periods of time, if not indefinitely. Most commonly, infiltration is associated with the entry of ground water sources into the sewer system through cracked pipes, leaky joints and either failing or improperly sealed lateral connections or manholes.
Sources of inflow into a sanitary sewer system are often easily detected and similarly (at times) easily corrected with the placement of manhole cover inserts along with the disconnecting of sump pumps and storm sewer sources. These type repairs are extremely advantageous in the proper operation of a sanitary sewer system and wastewater treatment plant, often eliminating sewer line blockages, system scouring and more importantly pumping station and treatment plant malfunctions which are often experienced as a result of spiking flow patterns. The elimination of inflow sources can certainly be correlated to cost savings for a given utility, as sewer rates are commonly developed by utilizing total flows as the critical factor. Secondly, the elimination of pumping station and treatment plant malfunctions reduces the likelihood for the imposition of fines and/or penalties by regulatory agencies normally imposed for inadequate treatment or unauthorized discharges.
Sources of infiltration into a sanitary sewer system (contrary to inflow sources) are quite often difficult to detect and inevitably may require the use of televised equipment, flow metering devices, and the correlation of many sources of data, such as water and sewer flow logs, metering data, census information and among other items, residential vs. commercial/industrial community activities.
Communities often operate sanitary sewer systems for years without understanding that they even have an infiltration problem. Because (unlike in flow) the contributing infiltration sources are usually scattered throughout large sections of the infrastructure and their slower rates of flow typically are disguised when coupled with the average daily sanitary flows.
It is not uncommon to determine after a thorough review of a sanitary sewer system that excessive infiltration has not only gone on unnoticed but that it has increased significantly over the results of previous investigations.
Simply put, infiltration never goes away and can only worsen over time. The early detection and understanding of infiltration problems in a sanitary sewer system is a sound management tool in controlling the quality and quantity of wastewater sent to its treatment facilities. Unabated infiltration only serves to erode away at the infrastructure while at the same time reducing overall capacities and driving up costs for the end user. Certainly, cost effective analysis will dictate where and when to undertake repairs but without first making a comprehensive analysis of the system shortcomings the community will continue to throw good money after bad and should not expect to see favorable results over the short term.
By the year 2001 the Authority completed and put into service a newly constructed influent pumping station (EPS) as the hydraulic limitations of its existing outfall facilities were being exceeded during peak wet weather flows, and without swift corrective action environmental impact and degradation would have been a certainty. The EPS has now provided the treatment and plant with quantitative discharge capabilities of over 23 million gallons per day.
Concurrent with the planning and construction of the EPS the SMRSA embarked on a campaign amongst its member municipalities in which they offered to be the host agency to sponsor a multi-municipal or regional effort to abate inflow and infiltration in the municipality owned collection systems within the SMRSA Sanitary Sewer Service Area. Six of the eight SMRSA member municipalities elected to participate in the program, which provided for a complete and comprehensive assessment of their individual systems and well as the design and implementation of state of the art repairs. Construction to remediate the system deficiencies began in December 2004 and are expected to be completed by the Fall of 2005.
The funding of this project came from a low-interest loan (of approximately 2.25%) from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust and Fund Program. SMRSA has acted as the primary funding agency by putting in place the “up-front” costs for each of the participating town’s, eliminating the need for redundant expenditures when compared to the municipalities pursuing financing independently. Economy in scale was also a major consideration and proved to provide a level of contractor service at affordable values that would not have been practical if I/I programs were pursued independently. The participating towns will begin to pay off their respective portions of the loan in the 2005 fiscal year and will continue to do so over the 20-year payment period prescribed in the loan documents.
VII. COST ANALYSIS AND COMPLIANCE HISTORY
As eluded to earlier, none of the aforementioned could have been accomplished without the infusion of Capital monies and increasing the long-term debt of the Authority.
The strategic vision of the Asset Management approach has been a huge success. In essence, over the period of time reported on herein, upwards of 95% of the SMRSA’s assets have either been repaired, retired or replaced in conjunction with a Financial Analysis which has maintained cost effective rates to its users. In fact, in fiscal year 2004 the SMRSA was recognized as having the second lowest user rate of all regional authorities statewide.
In total the SMRSA has invested nearly $15,000,000 into its infrastructure beginning in 1991 and through to the conclusion of its current Capital Improvement Plan in 2009 fiscal year. In brief, please find below highlights of some of the more significant achievements:
- The SMRSA fiscal year 1991 total User Charge was $3,449,876; in fiscal year 2005 the total User Charge is $5,179,101, representing an annualized increase in Sewer Use Charges of 3.6%.
- The SMRSA budget has been able to withstand nearly 150% increases in basic generation energy charges during this volatile period of De-regulation. In fact, SMRSA has reduced its overall energy demand through innovation and conservation, yet its basic generation charges continue to rise. Despite this impact the user charge increase between fiscal year 2004 and fiscal year 2005 was at 3.0%.
- The correlation between maintenance of its assets and the facility’s abilities to achieve sustained compliance within its permitted parameters can be derived from the graphic below illustrating the SMRSA compliance history over the past three-year for three of its more generally recognizable permit parameters.
Cost Analysis and Compliance History
VIII. ACKNOWLEDGE AND ACHIEVEMENTS
The approach taken by the SMRSA has not only completely reversed the public but the industries and regulatory agencies perceptions of its staff and facilities. The newly revised facilities is routinely visited by other industry professionals from all areas of North America, as far reaching as Germany, China and Japan, all who are seeking to duplicate SMRSA’s success by undertaking similar programs of their own. A brief listing of other notable achievements are as follows:
- In March of 1993 the American Consulting Engineering Council awarded the SMRSA its Engineering Excellence Award for the innovate design and planning of the Downdraft Induced AIR Trickling Filter Ventilation System.
- The SMRSA’s Treatment Plant campus is continually utilized as a training ground for the public at large. Routine tours provide much needed insight for the public to educate themselves at all levels. Students from the kindergartner age through those seeking advanced degrees in Environmental Sciences or Engineering can routinely be found touring the facility with SMRSA staff. In fact, the SMRSA was recognized by the Association of Environmental Authorities in the years of 1996 and 2003 and was issued its WAVE Public Education Award.
- In 2002, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection selected SMRSA for an award and recognition for its participation in the NJDEP Watershed Management Program.
- Without doubt the most significant acknowledgment that SMRSA’s programs were setting the standards for the industry to follow came in 2001, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency bestowed upon SMRSA its most prestigious and sought after Region II O&M Excellence Award.
IX. FUTURE PLANS AND CONSIDERATION
The SMRSA has planned over the next five fiscal years and put monies in place to accomplish a variety of remaining tasks required to keep pace with prudently managing its assets. The majority of which will address remaining areas of deficiency and/or vulnerability in the SMRSA owned collection system.
The key to the asset management approach is that it never becomes complete and that through the continual assessment of the condition of your assets, equipment failure and down time can be reduced to the bare minimum, thereby reducing the burden of O&M cost and maintaining reasonable and more importantly predictable Sewer Use Charges.
Major issues that lie ahead for the SMRSA will undoubtedly come in the form of Regulatory Change to the Water Quality Effluent Limitations into receiving water bodies.
Despite the efforts and significant accomplishments in pollution abatement that this industry made, as researchers and scientists continue to explore our oceans and their eco systems new levels of treatment will be required. A growing national concern and accumulating evidence that our oceans are at risk from point and non-point source pollution from over fishing, coastal development and encroachment best evidence this. These concerns led to the creation of the PEW Ocean Commission in early 2000.
The PEW Ocean Commission brought together a diverse group of American leaders in the fields of science, fishing, conservation, government, education, business, and philanthropy. It has secured the help of leading scientists to determine priority issues and to write reports summarizing the best scientific information available on those subjects. The fundamental conclusion of the PEW Oceans Commission (June 2003) is that Americas Oceans are in crisis. The report highlighted the effects of coastal development and sprawl on coastal habitat and water quality.
Concurrent with the work being done by the PEW Oceans Commission, the OCEANS ACT OF 2000 mandated the creation of the US COMMISSION ON OCEAN POLICY, which was charged with making findings and developing recommendations to the President and Congress for a co-coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy. In early April of 2004, the Commission introduced a DRAFT PRELIMINARY REPORT to all Governors for comment and review prior to releasing the final document to the President and Congress. Notwithstanding the fact that both commissions worked independently, the similarities of both findings are remarkable, concluding that as a nation we have substantially under invested in understanding and managing our oceans. More importantly both committee stress the need for comprehensive and enforceable regional ocean governance plans, to protect, maintain, and restore marine ecosystems. At a minimum, these plans should address the following:
- Management of living marine resources
- Protection of habitat
- Protection of water quality
- Management of development affecting marine ecosystem health
While both commissions agree that Point source pollution continues to adversely affect the ocean ecosystem. The commission is quick to point out that the most significant point source impacts are limited to either non-compliant current NPDES holders or unregulated sources.
Non-point source discharges obviously are the single largest concern of both agencies and a multitude of recommendations point toward increased water quality based regulations and tougher enforcement actions.
Although this is good news, in no way should it be construed that existing NJPDES holders in New Jersey “are out of the woods” or will not be affected by the many changes to come. Focus early on promises concentration on coastal discharges, however both reports clearly indicate and strongly recommend that regulators look up stream through the estuaries beyond the rivers, and deep into the watersheds at all dischargers regulated or not. With nutrients being the primary target area. The commissions clearly question whether or not current standards are making the grade when considering the ocean ecosystem.
The SMRSA remains on the cutting edge of the issues most likely to impact coastal dischargers. It has in the past supported and will continue to support in the future scientifically sound water quality based initiatives that will promote or sustain an enhanced ocean eco-system. SMRSA maintains an active role in developing Ocean Discharge Studies, Sensitive Species Mapping, C.P.O. Studies, and Chlorine Demand Studies, while working in connection with major state universities and N.O.A.A. on Sea Grant issues.
Clearly, the future holds change for all of those who participate in protecting our environment. The SMRSA has evolved into an agency that will undoubtedly be in the forefront and its User Base today can take comfort in knowing that there is a system in place to protecting their infrastructure and preserving it at reasonable cost for generations to come.