CALDWELL, NJ — Elected officials from Caldwell, West Caldwell, Roseland and Essex Fells came together last week to address infrastructure concerns surrounding the water treatment plant that is currently being shared between those four communities as well as North Caldwell and Fairfield.

Acting in their capacity as the local sewer board, Caldwell Mayor John Kelley, Business Administrator Tom Banker and members of the Caldwell Borough Council invited representatives from the affected municipalities in order to hear from representatives from the Caldwell Wastewater Treatment Plant regarding the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) compliance requirements for the plant. 

In addition to several township representatives, who are listed at the end of this article, independent contractor Hatt Mott McDonald Operating Services, LLC, which operates the water treatment plant, was also in attendance.

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According to Banker, the more than 100-year-old Caldwell Wastewater Treatment Plant—also known as the Caldwell Sewerage Utility—is currently overburdened. Although the current capacity allows for a maximum of 4.5-million gallons of water a day, Banker said the actual flow of 5-million gallons daily exceeds the permitted volume.

The infiltration system is further overburdened on days of inclement weather due to sump pumps that are also connected to the system, he said.

Banker indicated that repairs have taken on a “triage perspective” to date, but stated that a long-term remedy would be “to find more capacity at the plant or to put the flow elsewhere.”

He stressed to those in attendance that he wants the municipalities to participate in the process and continue to explore options. He also vowed to share his findings with the other towns.

Although he acknowledged that Banker “inherited this issue” when he took the position in Caldwell, West Caldwell Mayor Tempesta expressed his disappointment that this was “being presented the 11th hour” when the NJDEP notified the Caldwell Sewer Utility about the “full capacity” at least 18-to-24 months ago.

Banker noted that contracts with the user municipalities that have not been executed by the current governing bodies are still in effect. However, he said, the goal is to update the contracts to represent the current administrations.

According to Banker, the Township of Fairfield, which only utilizes the water treatment plant in one portion of the community, is the only municipality that has returned an executed contract to date.

Tempesta responded that there has been apprehension when it comes to signing the contracts because there are “a lot of unanswered questions” as to the options that were considered.

Specifically, Tempesta questioned whether there has been discussion about where the sewage can be redirected and whether to charge developers for the cost of expansion prior to presenting the option of only assessing the municipalities.

In addition to structural concerns due to aging, the future capacity needs are also a topic of concern due to the pending growth of the municipalities that utilize the plant, according to Banker.

Banker specifically referenced plans for Becker Farm Road in Roseland, North Caldwell’s pending development of Greenbrook Country Club, the development at Hilltop and Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligations in all communities. He noted that these examples were in addition to pending plans for redevelopment in Caldwell, primarily along the business corridor of Bloomfield Avenue.

Items related to capacity planning relative to NJDEP compliance requirements, collection systems review and contract discussions were also on the agenda for the meeting along with short-and long-term options to consider, such as plant expansion.

West Caldwell Borough Attorney Paul Jemas—who has previously served as mayor and a council member in Caldwell—apprised those in attendance that a feasibility study to explore the possibility of redirecting flow to Parsippany-Troy Hills Water Utility and/or Two Bridges Sewer Authority was conducted in the 1980s.

He said it was discovered at the time that redirection was possible, as the utilities were then able to accommodate the extra capacity. Banker confirmed that he would be in touch with both utilities in order to determine where this is still an option.

According to Hatt Mott McDonald representative Philip LiVecchi—who also serves as executive vice president and division general manager of the Caldwell Wastewater Treatment Plant—there will be a “retroactive effort” to re-visit the Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU) assessment, which he said was “last completed by the borough in 2014 using 2013 actual water consumption data.”

“The EDU assessment is essentially a method of distributing sewer costs, both operating and capital expenses,” said LiVecchi. “We recently obtained actual water consumption records from all member communities dating back to 2014 and are in the process of recalculating the EDU distribution through 2019. Our intent is to true-up these costs in 2020.”

LiVecchi further stated that with the exception of Roseland, the collection system in each member community “passes through one or more other communities en route to the treatment plant.”

“The reality of this cross-communication is that it limits our ability to accurately quantify sanitary flow generated by any one community,” he said, adding that if municipalities are billed separately, it will become an issue of “whether or not the costs to mitigate Inflow and Infiltration (I&I)—non-sanitary flow—making its way into the sanitary system by illegal connection (i.e. storm drains and sump pumps), at the surface through manholes or from ground water entering at open pipe joints should be borne by an individual community or as part of the costs of operating the entire sewer utility.”

He reiterated that this is further complicated “by the inability to clearly define these boundaries within the collection system.”

Banker concluded that due diligence will continue to determine the Caldwell Sewer Utility’s future needs and potential remedies. Information will be relayed to the municipalities as data is returned from the various phases of the assessments, he added.

The sewer utility budget will be presented on March 3 during the draft budget presentation for 2020 and will be made available for the municipalities to review prior to signing contracts.

In addition to Tempesta and Jemas from West Caldwell, the following individuals represented the other communities at the meeting:

  • West Caldwell Council President Kathy Canale, Business Administrator Nicole Baltycki and consultants from Maser Consulting;
  • Roseland Councilman Roger Freda, Borough Attorney Elnardo Webster Jr., Business Administrator Maureen Chumacas and Borough Clerk Joni Noble McDonnell; and
  • Essex Fells Sewer Operator William Ryden.
  • North Caldwell and Fairfield were not represented.