Combined Sewer Overhaul

Jersey City takes on a massive multi-year effort to improve its collection system, increase capacity, and eliminate CSOs.
Combined Sewer Overhaul
From left, Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority employees Philip Muzzo, instruction supervisor; Richard Haytas, district engineer; Daniel Becht, executive director; and Marc Borg, CCTV supervisor, with the city’s CCTV truck and three of the city’s five Camel vacuum trucks (Super Products).

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Faced with an EPA consent decree and plagued for years by sewer backups, the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Au-thority is engaged in a comprehensive effort to inspect, clean and repair its aging 230-mile-long sewer system.

New camera inspection technology is helping.

“Our new CUES-IMX truck-mounted camera enables us to inspect sewer lines much faster and more cost-effectively than with the older camera units,” explains Richard Haytas, Jersey City MUA district engineer whose responsibilities for the project keep his phone ringing and schedule chock full. CUES has partnered with InfraMetrix to develop the system. The camera offers a 25:1 optical zoom, remotely controlled by a telescopic boom.

Haytas says his crew especially likes that the camera unit is pole-mounted, avoiding the need to clean the pipe before it is inspected, as was the case with older crawler-mounted units. Plus, it can zoom as much as 150 to 200 feet down a pipe, enabling MUA personnel to shoot an entire line from two manholes — one upstream and one downstream. “The image is much clearer (compared to older methods) and the magnification is better,” says Haytas. “It saves a lot of time.”

Jersey City MUA

Jersey City, population 250,300, is the second largest city in New Jersey, and lies across from Lower Manhattan between the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay, and the Hackensack River and Newark Bay.

The Jersey City MUA has provided water, wastewater and solid waste services to the city since its founding in 1949. Almost all of its sewers are combined, with 21 CSO overflow points.

Two older wastewater treatment plants within the city are no longer in operation, and the authority pumps approximately 50 million gallons of wastewater a day beneath Newark Bay to the regional Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission facility in Newark for treatment.

Portions of the sewer system are more than 100 years old, and the pipes consist of a wide variety of materials including cast iron, vitrified clay, riveted steel, reinforced concrete, circular and oval brick, and heli-elliptical. In some sections of the city, wood sewer lines still exist.

Under terms of the agreement with the federal government an-nounced in July 2011, MUA is spending more than $52 million to inspect, clean and upgrade its sewer system to prevent future releases of untreated wastewater into area water bodies. The agreement specifically calls on the MUA to repair 25,000 feet of sewer lines over the next eight years, and to invest $550,000 into a project that will remove privately owned sewers from homes in several city neighborhoods and replace them with direct sewer connections. The construction schedule actually coincides with the authority’s 10-year master plan.

The project is designed to remedy a history of CSO events that led to repeated violations of the Clean Water Act and sewer backups. “During heavy rains, stormwater would simply overwhelm our pipe capacity and trigger discharges into surface waterways,” explains Haytas, a 16-year veteran of MUC. “A storm of an inch an hour maxes out our sewers. There’s no place for the water to go.”

In addition, high tides along the Jersey City shoreline can often prevent the water from passing through outfalls to the river, causing sewer backups. “We have a lot of residences where basements serve as living areas,” Haytas says. That became such an issue that city ordinances now prohibit living quarters such as showers or bedrooms below street level.

Progress report

According to Haytas, the MUA is well along on its path to clean and inspect all of its lines, and to identify and bid out the many construction projects that will ensue. “We’ve divided the overall project into seven  phases,” he explains. “We’re now working on phase six.”

Each phase consists of between 1,000 to 1,500 manholes. MUA is using the NATCO grading system to identify and classify pipe issues: from 1, meaning the pipe is in good shape, to 5, which indicates the pipe is beyond its useful life.

Haytas says inspection of the first four phases is complete, and after the authority analyzes which sewers need to be cleaned and/or replaced, bids are being let to outside contractors.

“We have awarded the contract for the Sixth and Tenth Street projects,” he says, noting that work should commence this spring and summer. Some of the sewer lines in these areas are scheduled for replacement, and some for relining using the cured-in-place method. Haytas says this work — estimated to cost just over $2.5 million — will require bypass pumping as well as extensive traffic control.

Subsequent projects — Brown Place, Sipp, Duncan and Newark avenues — have been awarded to engineering firms that are now putting specifications together and conducting survey work. Work on these projects is expected to be finished in the 2014-2015 time frame.

Another large project — Grant Street — is ticketed for 2019.

Cleaning and inspecting

Cleaning and inspecting the sewer system is essential to the Jersey City project. The authority has two camera units — a 2005 model that uses a CCTV camera mounted on a crawler, and the new IMX unit. Both are in operation 24/7.

“Years ago, when we just had the older unit, we would have to clean a section of sewer line before we could TV it, in order for the crawler to be able to get through,” Haytas explains.

“The new truck is a one-man operation. You zoom up the line, and down the line, and you have a complete inspection of the pipe.”

Haytas says the sharper images produced by the new truck are helpful in the reports he and his team must prepare for the EPA.

“We’re using the new IMX unit for the EPA work, and putting the older unit to work on day-to-day issues like sewer collapses and new connection tie-ins,” he says.

The MUA is using the same methodical approach to cleaning its sewer system. Using its Jet-Vac jetter-cleaner unit, the authority is concentrating on areas known to be problematic. “Over the last 16 years or so, we know where we have flat pipes or restaurants, and spots where we constantly gets calls,” Haytas says. “Now we’re doing cleaning and maintenance on those areas before problems occur.”

There are about 300 areas like this, Haytas reports, and MUA can get to these areas between two and three times a year. “Once we’re done, we start again,” he says.

Haytas says MUA can’t use the Jet-Vac unit on pipe sizes larger than 36 inches, and instead employs three Stetco Dragon machines that pull a 24-inch bucket through a pipe, raise it to street level, and dump the contents into a pickup truck. “We can’t do this in winter because of slippery conditions on the streets,” he explains. “But we start dragging in April and run all the way up until October.”

The authority’s 5,800 catch basins are cleaned by a fleet of five Stetco jetter-bucket trucks.

Results are positive. Haytas says the authority might get 15 to 20 calls a day prior to the cleaning program, but now the dry weather rate is around five calls a day. “And some of these are homeowner problems, or caused by a utility cave-in,” he says.

Future capacity

In a related project, the Jersey MUA will make use of one of those abandoned treatment plants after all.

“We’re rehabbing the sedimentation basins in the old East Side plant on Camille Avenue so they can be used for storage,” Haytas says. “The plant has been out of service for 20 to 25 years, but it’s still there. Together with T&M Associates, our engineering consultant, the EPA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, we’re working to convert it into a stormwater storage and pumping station.”

The basins will give the authority more capacity to handle storm flow and help it meet its goals of reducing or eliminating surface water overflows and discharges.


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