MILLBURN, NJ – The Millburn Township Committee made a start last night on improving the sewer system in the South Mountain area when it approved a $43,000 contract for an engineering study.

Engineer Ronald Piccolo of Hatch Mott MacDonald came before the governing body to explain what his firm proposes to do. He indicated he will determine which underground trunk lines belong to the municipality and which belong to the Joint Meeting of Essex and Morris Counties, the wastewater treatment facility that serves 15 area towns. He also will study the flow of the lines at various points, check for cracked pipes and look for places where unauthorized sump pumps drain into the lines.

Piccolo said part of the problem may be that seven area municipalities drain to a single crossing of the Rahway River.

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In related news, the committee heard an update from engineer Leo Coakley, also of Hatch Mott MacDonald, on plans for stormwater drainage in the South Mountain area.

He said he and local officials from Millburn and Cranford had met with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection regarding the West Branch of the Rahway River, which flows through the South Mountain Reservation before coming into the township. State officials promised to see if water in the various reservoirs and ponds could be regulated to minimize the effects downstream during heavy rains.

Coakley also outlined some preliminary remedies for the East Branch of the river, which flows past Greenwood Drive, Ridgewood Road, Haran Circle and Oval Road. He said state officials had indicated they would approve permits for the building of a floodwall behind five homes on Haran Circle and a swale behind homes on Oval Road.

Homes on Greenwood Drive and Ridgewood Road are divided into three areas. In the first area on Greenwood, the engineer proposes to run 24-inch pipe through the backyards and down a sideyard and tie the pipe into existing line. That area is served by a pumping station at Gilbert Place.

The second and third areas, on Ridgewood Road, would be served by new pipes and would necessitate their own pumping chambers, which Coakley said he hopes can be placed in the same Gilbert Place area.

He gave a cost estimate of $2 million for the new pumping chambers and an additional $600,000 for improvements to the existing station.

The engineer’s presentation brought questions from the eight South Mountain residents who have been seeking remediation for their homes, which were flooded during Tropical Storm Irene this summer.

When one resident asked if the proposed floodwall would have prevented that situation, Coakley said no, because during Irene, water flowed over the existing walls. He said with the committee’s approval, he is designing the system to handle the kind of flood that would happen every 25 years.

That reminder drew a sharp response from Ridgewood Road resident Carrie Gottlieb.

“I don’t see what this will do for me,” she said. “I don’t have a 25-year problem. I have a 100-year flood every 12 years problem.”

Another resident, who said she has lived in the area for 20 years, endorsed the actions the township is taking. She said they will improve the quality of life by reducing standing water problems.

Mayor Sandra Haimoff said local officials were persisting with their efforts, even though they realize they cannot prevent the 100-year flood.

“It’s all going to come together, hopefully to mitigate the problem,” she said.

In other business, the governing body introduced a bond ordinance that amends one adopted in 2007. That ordinance allowed the township to purchase two properties in the downtown, the former Rimback property and a private house next door. The amended ordinance will allow the township to use part of the $5 million set aside for the purchase of properties to buy a medical building located next to the municipal court.

Another ordinance was introduced that will place a stop sign at the intersection of Thackeray Drive and Wordsworth Road.