DTMUA Presents Bleak Options and Alternatives for Future Waste Handling

Two recent reports spell out, in rather bleak terms, the difficult financial times that this small utility is about to enter.  The board of the Delaware Township Municipal Utilities Authority (DTMUA) reviewed the “DTMUA Alternatives Report” last month and the draft “Capacity Assurance Plan” will be reviewed soon. On Monday June 9 Delaware Township Municipal Utilities Authority (DTMUA) Chairman Bill Schroeher addressed the Township Committee to report on the situation.  Mr. Schroeher presented an option not included in the Alternatives Report: a plan to build a pipeline from Sergeantsville to Stockton, pipe the sewage via Stockton to Lambertville for treatment, and close the aging sewage treatment plant in Sergeantsville for good.

NJDEP is holding all MUAs to new stricter quality standards for effluent discharge into C-1 streams, such as the Rose Brook into which DTMUA currently discharges.  The Alternatives Report was commissioned by the board to determine how the utility might respond to these new standards.  The Capacity Assurance Plan is a document that is required by NJDEP when treatment at a plant exceeds 80% of design capacity.  This threshold was triggered by the recent expansion of the user base through the addition of the new homes being built by Perimeter Properties in Sergeantsville.

In the Alternatives Report, DTMUA engineer Dr. Andy Higgins explains that the new standards make it necessary to change the way DTMUA treats its waste.  There are three options, all of them extremely expensive when spread over the small user base of approximately 220 (including the school and the coming new homes.)    Dr. Higgins’ preferred option is the middle one from a cost standpoint and has a present worth of $5.4M.  The report does not take into account the cost of numerous repairs to the existing infrastructure that are enumerated in the Capacity Assurance Plan.  Annual user fees are high and heading higher.

On Monday evening, Mr. Schroeher circulated a memo that he had previously circulated to the DTMUA board.  The memo focuses on a fourth option – the pipeline option.  Mr. Schroeher was seeking, and received, concurrence from the Township Committee to approach the Lambertville Sewerage Authority (LSA) and the Stockton Water and Sewer Board for preliminary discussions.  Referring to the Alternatives Report, Mr. Schroeher felt that “The other options are not as viable.  The worst thing is rehabilitating the existing plant because it’s expensive.  The costs are skyrocketing.”  After a brief explanation of the pipeline concept, he continued: “I’m recommending that we open it up and we look at it seriously. I think it has a lot of advantages.  What we want to do is to sit down and open up a conversation.”

A true cost analysis has not been commissioned but Dr. Higgins had done some conceptual studies that are included in the memo and indicate a possible $3.9M initial outlay.  Mr. Schroeher’s explanation also included the concept of “picking up additional homes” from properties that lie along the pipeline on county routes 523 and 604.  These homes are not in the present sewer service area and have private septic systems.  He estimated that there are 43 such homes between Sergeantsville and Stockton.

Committeeman Rich Madden asked who would own the pipeline and “are there any grant opportunities since we would no longer be discharging into a C1 Stream?”   Deputy Mayor Kristin McCarthy, also a board member of the DTMUA, said that DTMUA would own the pipeline.  “The influent would still go to the plant, but instead of being a plant, it would be a pump.”  Nobody was aware of grants.

Committeeman Alan Johnson asked who would participate in the discussions with Lambertville and Stockton.  When Mr. Schroeher said that that had not yet been determined, Mr. Johnson added: “I would want a representative from the Township Committee.  I’m hesitant having someone talking to another entity… I would like one of the committee members who is on the DTMUA to be a part of that negotiating team.  If we are potentially going to be on the hook for some bonded indebtedness, I would like us to have a seat at the table too.” Besides Deputy Mayor McCarthy, the other Township Committee member who is also on the DTMUA Board is Jim McCue. It was agreed that one of the two would participate in the meeting.