Upgrade likely for aging water treatment plant

Part 1 of 2
Presented with three options to address the city’s aging water treatment plant on Westfield Avenue, the City Council likely will approve a $1.4-million bond ordinance (O-34-13) to cover preliminary costs of upgrading the nearly century-old facility.

The bond ordinance, introduced at the Aug. 12 meeting, would fund the initial phase for such things as engineering, design and several immediate repairs and upgrades. The City Council will hold a public hearing and final approval on the ordinance at its Sept. 9 an Aug. 28 special meeting. ***CORRECTION***

Mark Tompeck of engineering firm Hatch, Mott, MacDonald led the presentation to the governing body at the City Council’s meeting last week, outlining the current standards and “firm capacity,” as well as three options to address the capacity deficit and other issues:

* Interconnections: Under high flow transfer conditions, the water system would operate at reduced pressures and storage would be reduced, adversely impacting “fire storage reserves and fire flow capabilities.” Alone, they could not meet demand and the cost to buy water from New Jersey-American or Middlesex Water would be exceed $5 million annually, in addition to $6 million to $7 million in capital costs to construct three to four new pumping stations.

* Groundwater: The city had at one point several wells that were abandoned and sealed in the 1990s due to groundwater contamination. A 2004 study found limited locations for potential new wells that would yield low results but also likely would be contaminated, requiring treatment.

* Treatment plant upgrade: In 2006, the city retained Hatch Mott MacDonald to examine the plant’s filters and determined that a new membrane system was needed. An interconnection with  Middlesex Water Company would be constructed that would come directly to the plant for improving the chloride condition that occurs during the winter (due to road salting). Construction of the membrane plant would cost $12 million, with another $2 million for the interconnection/transmission main.

Tompeck called the plant upgrade the most cost-effective option, meeting current water standards and anticipating future standards.

The treatment plant must be upgraded to standards mandated by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which has been meeting with city officials since October 2012 to establish the process and schedule to achieve that. The DEP has determined that the plant has no “firm capacity” — the adequate treatment capacity to meet the water system’s peak daily demand. The plant’s filters were designed in the 1920s not meant for today’s stringent standards, Tompeck said.

The city uses 5.1 million gallons a day on average and 6.6 million gallons on a peak day. The city has worked with the DEP to accept a firm capacity of 4.1 million and is working toward 5.5 million or more. With a deficit of 1.6 million gallons in firm capacity, Tompeck said that means the state considers capacity deficient. A hydraulic model done earlier this year showed the potential to transfer from 3.5 to 5.5 million gallons per day “under emergency conditions.”

The current firm capacity deficit of 1.6 million gallons must be addressed, and that’s assuming a transfer of a maximum 5 million gallons from New Jersey-American and Middlesex Water, in addition to a future peak flow of 7.6 million gallons, which would make for a future deficit of 2.6 million.

Part 2: How to pay for it, will be posted tomorrow. If you want to read ahead, the gory details can be found in the presentations here and here.