ELIZABETH, NJ – Flooding may be a thing of the past for residents in the Sixth and Trumbull Street neighborhood when the city installs a huge underground tank to catch rain water overflow, said city engineer Dan Loomis in a presentation during the Annual Estuary Day at the Peterstown Community Center, April 28.

The tank will be 200 feet wide and 300 feet long with a capacity of two million gallons. “This is fairly sophisticated,” said Loomis. “There are controls monitoring and will release the water at a controlled pace that won’t flood the system. It is an important project for the people and will help with overall sewer goals.”  

Loomis explained that Elizabeth, along with 21 other, mostly urban communities, has a combined sewage system, meaning that sewage and rain water share the same pipe. In normal weather, the sewage is diverted to a waste treatment plant, and the rain water is emptied in the river. In times of heavy rain, the pipes have an overflow, and some of the sewage gets mixed in with rain water and dumped in the river, adding to the pollutants already there.\

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It is a project welcomed by Councilman William Gallman whose Ward encompasses the Sixth and Trumbull Street neighborhood. “The area has been flooding for years, and we had to do something about it. This is neighborhood friendly project because there will be walking paths and plants.”

Netting facilities are already in 29 locations throughout the city, catching solids larger than one-half inch, said Loomis. It is all part of an integrated approach. “There are of things that can be done,” said Loomis. Developers can deal with the storm water at their sites rather than have it overload the system. Green infrastructure projects, such as rain gardens and permeable pavement can address storm water at the site before they get in the system and increase the conveyance to the water treatment plant, meaning more infrastructure and pipes. Currently, the city has 200 miles of piping.

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a permit to the city to come up with a plan by 2020 to reduce the overflow events to only four a year. Currently, the city has 60 to 80 annually. This is a long term, multi-decade project. The first step is a financial capability assessment to determine what the community can reasonably afford and over what time period.

The issue of flooding has been the city’s problem for a number of years. “We are exceeding the capacity of the system,” said Loomis. “It is very important for the city to address this issue. The city has been very proactive for the last 25 years to reduce flooding and address the combined sewage issue.”

The bottom line is simple. Said Loomis,“It is a health issue.”