Millburn Planning Board Approves East Orange Water Commission Pollutant Treatment Facility

Eileen Feldman, an engineer representing the East Orange Water Commission, outlines the commission's plans for an air stripping facility in Millburn. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
Consultant Harry Strano does a presentation on the Millburn Environmental Resource Inventory. Credits: Bob Faszczewski
The Millburn Planning Board Credits: Bob Faszczewski

MILLBURN, NJ—A site plan for construction of an air stripping facility at the White Oak Ridge pumping station property operated by the East Orange Water Commission (EOWC) near 300 Parsonage Hill Road was approved on Wednesday by the Millburn Planning Board.  

The facility, which is being planned to respond to a consent order from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, will be designed to remove volitile organic compounds known as PCE and DCE from drinking water supplied to residents of East Orange, South Orange and parts of Millburn served by the water commission.

The facility will consist of three aluminum towers, each 32 feet high and 12 feet in diameter, according to water commission engineer Eileen Feldman.

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Feldman said water containing the VOCs would enter the towers from the top and be bumped through a filtering device that would trap the compounds. Water free of the contaminents would exit the tanks from the bottom to enter the commission’s supply lines leading to customers.

She added the air stripping method is believed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to be one of the two most effective methods of eliminating VOCs from drinking water and its use has been approved by the DEP in conjunction with water commission engineers. 

Emissions from the towers would be at a very low level, the engineer said, and it would be at levels below that at which the DEP measures such emissions. Noise would be minimized, she added, and the nearest residence affected by noise levels would be 1200 feet away from the facility.

Feldman said there would be little visual impact—with the facility more visible during the fall and winter set back from Parsonage Hill Road and Kennedy Parkway.

Construction, she noted, would begin in late winter 2015 and would take from 18 to 22 months.

The tower tanks would be assembled off-site, but there would be truck traffic entering and leaving the site during construction. After construction, maintenance would be intermittent so truck traffic would not be as frequent.

The major concern about the plan was its proposed removal of 72 trees from the property.

Resident Jennifer Duckworth, Chair of the township Environmental Commission, said assurances from the EOWC’s attorney and Feldman that the EOWC would work with the township forester on a plan for tree replacement were not sufficient.

She said the planning board should set as a condition of approval that the EOWC would do a one-to-one replacement of any trees removed.

Duckworth’s concerns also were shared by township committeewoman Sandra Haimoff and Roger Manshel, both members of the planning board.

The board, as a condition of its approval, said that the commission must replace trees and/or vegetation removed from the site during construction on a one-to-one basis “to the greatest extent possible” in consultation with the township forester.

Approval also is contingent on the ironing out of details on stormwater runoff from the site with township engineer Thomas Watkinson and proper protection for Indian Bats, whose habitat is believed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to exist in the general area although none of the species have been observed at the site or in Millburn.

Feldman also told the board that the water commission, probably in the next six months, would come before the board with a proposal to install a two-megawatt generator at the White Oak Tree site to operate its equipment in the event of power outages. She said the generator would be elevated to avoid flooding from the Canoe Brook, would be enclosed in a noise-attenuating enclosure and would be painted to fit in with the surrounding environment.

In another action, the planning board reviewed a possible proposed amendment to the township master plan that may result in creation of a hotel (or retail), office and residential zone in the area of Kennedy Parkway and Canoe Brook Road near the access road to The Mall at Short Hills.

Board member Joseph Steinberg said it might be preferable to create a residential zone in the rear of the property and a hotel and office zone fronting on Kennedy Parkway. He reasoned that developers of the site, owned by Roseland Mack Cali properties, would be forced to apply for more stringent D-1 variances for the two separate sites rather than applying for a less-stringent C-1 variance for a single site.

Township planner Paul Phillips replied a single zone for the mixed use would produce a better physical plan and help shield the township from future charges of spot zoning.

In the meantime, Phillips hinted that Roseland Mack Cali may have been talking with Taubman Properties, the owners of The Mall at Short Hills about possible elimination of the hotel-office portion of the zone to retail use and possible expansion of the mall.

Board chairman Kenneth Leiby said the planning body could hold a public hearing on the proposed zone as it now stands, without a retail component, and add a retail component later.

The board scheduled the public hearing on the master plan amendment including the proposed mixed use zone for September 17 at 7:30 pm.

In other business, the board discussed an amended steep slope ordinance designed to make regulation of the slopes less stringent, more in line with a communiity that is heavily developed and easier for township engineer Thomas Watkinson and his staff to enforce.

Among the new provisions would be one removing the gradations of slope percentages and making properties of at least 1,000 square feet with slope percentages of at least 20 percent subject to the ordinance. Current ordinance sets the minimum percentage at 15 percent with gradations rising from there.

On another matter, Harry Strano of Amy S. Green Environmental Consultants presented an update to the township environmental resource inventory (ERI) that was produced through the environmental commission.

He said information was drawn from existing inventories, including studies, reports, master plans and the 2005 natural resources inventory.

Strano noted the ERI was a general guideline for determining the priority of resources and their locations within the municipality.

He pointed out that the DEP ranks aquifers between “A”—with flows greater than 500 gallons per minute and “E” with flows of less than 25 gallons per minute. According to the DEP, Millburn includes the Brunswick Aquifer, rated “C”, and the Basalt Aquifer, rated “D.”

The consultant also said the township protects recharge of groundwater through a strong tree ordinance and its encouragement of rain gardens.

On the negative side, he said as of December 2012 there were 21 known sites in Millburn with contaminated groundwater.

When it comes to prime farmland and important soils, according to the ERI, 160 acres of township land are mapped as prime farmland, 62 acres as farmland of unique importance and 49 acres as farmland of statewide importance.

Turning to steep slopes, Strano said section 608 of the current township land use ordinance, pertaining to protection of the slopes, provides development controls to minimize the potentially adverse impacts associated with disturbance of steeply sloped areas.

There are two watersheds—the Upper Passaic River Watershed (above Pine Brook) and the Rahway River/Woodbridge Creek Watershed within the township and seven sub watersheds.

According to 2007 land use/land cover data, Millburn has approximately 362 acres of deciduous wooded wetlands, 37 acres of herbaceous wetlands and 36 acres of disturbed wetlands (containing such areas as golf courses and fields).

All regulated waters within the township have 50-foot reparian zones—areas containing land and vegetation adjacent to regulated waters.

According to the ERI, the largest area of FEMA 100-year floodplains in Millburn, with a 1 percent chance of flooding, lie in the northwest corner of the township.

Like much of the area, the township has a number of bodies of water with limited water quality. These include: The Upper Passaic River, Canoe Brook, Slough Brook and the West Branch of the Rahway River.

Endangered and threatened species with habitats in or near Millburn include: Bald eagle, barred owl, glossy ibis, great blue heron, Indiana bat, long-eared owl, red-headed woodpecker, red-shouldered hawk, snowy egret and Torney’s Mountain mint.

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