NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Hydrogen sulfide creates the rotten egg smell which often is found around wastewater treatment plants. It isn’t just smelly, it corrodes concrete and steel, major components of sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants.  

At the Monday, July 16, meeting of the council, members will vote on whether to fund a three-month demonstration program aimed at eliminating the hydrogen sulfide problem, including the odors it produces near wastewater treatment plants and manholes.

Council members and residents who attended the Borough Council meeting on June 25 saw photos and heard a long discussion about the damage hydrogen sulfide has done to pipes, manholes and other portions of the New Providence wastewater treatment system over the past 29 or more years. It’s a discussion that began in 2013, said Seth Harper, who has been involved in the discussion since that date. He works for Evoqua Water Technologies, which, in 2013, was known as Siemens Water Technologies.

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New Providence Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager Anthony Carnevale confirmed that he brought the issue of hydrogen sulfide to the council at that time.

Harper said “We did an initial monitoring in 2014 to get to the bottom of where the (odor) complaints and corrosion issues were coming from.” A report was issued showing “significant levels of hydrogen sulfide” in the system because of the “routing of the pipes in the system.

Councilman Bob Robinson asked if there was any treatment done to correct the situation and Harper said, “No.” As for why, Harper said it was “not up to me,” to make that decision.

Summit faces a similar problem, as lines from the two communities' wastewater treatment plants intersect at the Chatham Road Station down in Summit. The wastewater from both communities continues on to the Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties in Elizabeth for final treatment.

Carnevale said he has “quarterly meetings with people in Summit” and this is a problem that needs to be addressed. There are ongoing odor and corrosion problems in areas of Summit as well as New Providence.

Harper said, “Summit was looking for just a ‘Go’ on both sides … They are ready to move when you guys are.”

Councilman Robinson asked Harper two questions, “Have you done this before?” and how successful were those operations?

Harper replied that the chemical he is suggesting the borough use is “Bioxide,” a calcium nitrate solution, which is non-hazardous and doesn’t freeze, that was specifically “chosen for application”  He provided a long list of area communities which use this method of controlling hydrogen sulfide buildup including Madison, East Hanover, the Plainfield area and Randolph, among others.

Robinson suggested Borough Administrator Doug Marvin call administrators at towns using the process and find out if it is working and if they are satisfied with the process.

Harper said Bioxide works by providing an oxygen source in the pipe which the bacteria in the wastewater will use preferentially. “Take away the hydrogen sulfide and you will eliminate the corrosion,” he said.

The three-month demonstration program would cost $16,000 and, were it the program to run year-round, the annual cost would be $56,000.

Robinson asked, “Is this forever?”

Harper said it would be a “recurring expense, unless you substantially change things.”

Carnevale said there was no choice, the borough “will have to treat.” It may be possible to go with lower amounts of the chemical, but there is damage in “every single manhole,” he said, adding his “license is on the line here.”

Councilman Gary Kapner said, “If we do nothing, the cost would be enormous.”

Carnevale agreed with him. “If we do nothing there will be areas of the system that will leak, pumps that will break down … It is our responsibility as the licensed operators to address this stuff.” Failure to do so could result in environmental damage, fines, etc.

Kapner asked if the treatment would “lengthen the life of the current system.”

Harper said according to studies Evoqua has run, there is a “drastic difference between treated and non-treated” systems.

Mayor Al Morgan said, “We have a responsibility to address this issue.” That said, he said he’s concerned both towns “are putting the right amount of money into solving this issue.”

Marvin said if the three-month demonstration is approved, Evoqua will retrofit our tanks and pumps to be able to disperse this chemical, which costs “$2.35 a gallon. After a three-month period of time we should have an idea of the effectiveness of this solution.”

If the council approves the expenditure at its next meeting, the project should be able to begin in mid-August and the trial would run through mid-November. After that time, a decision can be made on whether to continue to treat the wastewater.