New Jersey Utility Begins Flood Protection Projects

A New Jersey utility reviews its flood protection plans after Hurricane Sandy tore through the region in 2012
New Jersey Utility Begins Flood Protection Projects

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Editor's Note: This article is part of a profile on the Atlantic County (New Jersey) Utilities Authority, which was published in the July 2015 issue of our sister publication, Treatment Plant OperatorRead the rest of the profile here.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard in late October 2012, Atlantic City was in the direct path of the winds and high waters.

The storm surge nearly flooded the Atlantic County Utilities Authority wastewater treatment plant, surrounded by salt marshes on the low-lying City Island on Atlantic City’s west edge. The brush with disaster led ACUA leaders to explore ways to protect the plant from future flooding. The authority, serving 14 communities in the eastern half of Atlantic County, will start construction by the end of this year on an $8.5 million seawall to hold back floodwaters.

“We came less than a foot from breaching during Sandy,” says Bob Carlson, assistant director of wastewater operations. “Hopefully, with the seawall, we’ll be protected.”

ACUA will use low-interest loans from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust to pay for three flood protection projects. The $8.5 million seawall is the most expensive. Other projects include $100,000 for portable inflatable flood barriers to use at the treatment plant and at off-site pumping stations, and $300,000 to install large sumps in the plant’s lower buildings to remove floodwater that may enter and thus prevent failure of key equipment.

ACUA is seeking environmental permits from state and federal agencies. After that, the projects will be put out for bids. Carlson says the next step in the utility’s storm protection program is to study the cost of installing more substantial backup generators.

Even though the treatment plant hosts the Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm consisting of five 380-foot-tall turbines with a combined 7.5 MW capacity, it can’t count on having that power full time. The wind farm, which was shut down during Sandy, can produce more power than the treatment plant needs when the winds are right. But if calm winds were to follow a storm, the wind power would not be enough and the existing backup generators could not power the key pumps and equipment needed to keep the plant in operation.

The emergency power situation is being reviewed, and Carlson expects a decision later in the year on whether ACUA leaders will seek approval for the project.


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