Despite storm, South Jersey wastewater facilities running smoothly
There are no major or lingering problems with wastewater facilities in South Jersey, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. But spokesman Lawrence Hajna said Thursday facilities in the Raritan Bay and Newark Bay are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy's effects.
You might expect storm surge to carry lots of excess debris and contaminants, but Cory Miller says that, typically, storms actually dilute wastewater. The real problem is the excess water itself, pushing through the sewer system, seeping around manholes and into basements.
"Most of the time it's just that there's more of it," said, Miller, executive director of the University Area Joint Authority. He manages wastewater cleanup for much of State College in Pennsylvania.
"In some cases, interesting new things that show up," he said. "For example, if somebody has stored hazardous chemicals in their basement, and their basement gets flooded, then all of a sudden we have extra things that we are not set up to treat."
He said wastewater facility managers work to make sure the plant's biomass doesn't get washed out. That's the lump of living microorganisms that cleans wastewater.
After a storm, the water flowing through a facility can actually be cleaner than usual.
"Sometimes it's so diluted and there's so little concentration, that really, just some filtration and chlorine is all you really need to do to meet your discharge permit," Miller said.