Sergeantsville Sewer Treatment Capacity Is Approaching a Critical Point
by Roger Harris & Steve Pasternack
Unless you live in Sergeantsville, you may not be aware there is a sewage treatment plant in our township. The Delaware Township Municipal Utilities Authority (DTMUA) was established in 1965. Its service area is the village of Sergeantsville. The DTMUA operates under its own budget, separate from the Township’s and funded by its users. The well for the DTMUA is located opposite the Sergeantsville Grain & Feed on top of the hill – easily spotted by the prominent green water tank. The sewage treatment plant is located opposite and just past the PNC bank (when heading south on Route 523). The DTMUA is a separate public body from the Township government, as set out in New Jersey statutes pursuant to municipal authorities. However, members of the DTMUA are appointed by the Township Committee.
Recently, the DTMUA commissioned its engineer, Dr. Andrew Higgins, of Applied Water Management, Inc to determine the plant’s growth capacity. Dr. Higgins’ report of October 4, 2005 shows that there is potential growth capacity of forty-seven units.
There are two parts to the DTMUA‘s capacity; one is the sewage treatment capacity and the second is the well water capacity. The sewage treatment capacity is further determined by two factors – the hydraulic capacity which could be described as the actual volume of waste that can be held at any given time and the treatment capacity (pollutant loading) the ability to treat that waste. Both of these growth studies point to the number 47 as an acceptable limit to the number of new units, but there is more to the story.
Dr. Higgins’ study (see full report) indicates that adding forty-seven new customers would put the DTMUA close to one hundred percent of its capacity. However state regulations require that upon reaching eighty percent of capacity, the DTMUA must have a “capacity assurance plan” – a study that will assure the NJDEP that the rated capacity of the plant will not be exceeded. Once this plan is approved by NJDEP, additional flow can be safely accepted, up to the rated capacity of the plant.
Of those forty-seven potential units the DTMUA could serve, five units are dedicated to the senior citizen housing to be built off Higgins Farm Road in Sergeantsville and five units are planned for any future expansion of the township school. Nineteen units have also been previously reserved for certain property owners within the village. That leaves eighteen units for future development in the newly created VE Zone (see related article), triggering the need for the capacity assurance plan. Recently, at both Township Committee and Planning Board meetings, concern has been expressed about bumping up against this limitation because the Township’s plan to comply with its affordable housing requirement is largely dependent on the existence of sewer hookups.
The cost of developing and implementing the capacity assurance plan is unknown. When Dr. Higgins was asked for an approximate cost, he said he could not estimate it. In the cover letter to Dr. Higgins’ report the DTMUA wrote the Township Committee, Planning Board and other departments that the DTMUA will not pay for the plan. Township officials are discussing various means to pay for such a plan. Among the ideas being considered are payment for the study/plan by developers, payment from the Township’s COAH funds, and a NJ smart growth grant.
Other posts by Steve Pasternack