Bayonne and other PVSC municipalities to lobby for funds to address CSOs

Combine Sewer Overflows occur when rain causes flooding and sewage spillage

Bayonne floods during rain storms in part due to CSOs. Photo by Victor M. Rodriguez
Bayonne floods during rain storms in part due to CSOs. Photo by Victor M. Rodriguez

The Bayonne City Council has approved a resolution authorizing a memorandum of understanding with the municipalities in the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC): Bayonne, Jersey City, North Bergen, Kearny, East Newark, Harrison, Newark, and Paterson.

The agreement sets forth the minimum conditions for the municipalities to obtain funding for the Regional Long Term Control Plan, which could cost over $2 billion. It’s meant to tackle Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) for the entire PVSC region, with each municipality having its own plan at the city level. CSOs occur when rain water causes the flooding and spilling of untreated sewage into waterways.

Former Municipal Services Director Tim Boyle said, “The effort here is that the eight CSO communities that are part of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission are on the same page with our state and federal representatives. Rather than them being bombarded from eight different communities working through PVSC, they wanted to have more of a form letter with multiple signatures.”

City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski noted that there was no lobbying firm being hired. Boyle said it was just the communities coordinating their efforts for financial support.

The council previously passed a resolution calling on the state and federal government to help fund its local Long Term Control Plan. Bayonne’s plan is estimated to cost $321 million. It aims to reduce local CSO volume by 73 percent, from 747.3 million gallons to 205.2 million gallons.

Plans in motion

In response to resident questions, Boyle said, “There are certainly areas of town where the [sewer] system needs work. We have just wrapped up a five-year engineering period where we’ve looked at 1,000 different scenarios of what the best way to address the problems in Bayonne would be. We are currently waiting to hear back from the state [Department of Environmental Protection] that our plan of action is acceptable by them, and then we will start to implement that plan.”

While the city is awaiting state approval, has already started implementing the plan.

“We see the rehab of Fitzpatrick Park right across the street has a cistern built underneath it to hold storm water,” Boyle said. “That cistern will hold, I think, 346,000 gallons of water. The reason for its placement there is because it was a park, and we could get underneath it. We had to get special funds from Green Acres to do that… The block just south of there used to flood horribly. All the stores across the street from the ShopRite would get two or three feet of water in their basements.”

Addressing flood-prone areas

“These are the kind of things we’ll be doing to try to get control over these neighborhoods that are more prone to flooding,” Boyle said. “It’s going to take 20 or 30 years to build out. There’ll be one project after another after another. So no one big project but a series of projects that will be rolled out over the next 20 years or so, hopefully completed in the next 30 years. That will bring us into compliance with the latest storm water management regulations that are both federal and state.”

Additionally, $125,000 was allocated from the $39.2 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan to address CSOs.

“I think the initial idea for the money, if it’s not been fully encumbered yet, is to assist with Hobart and Cottage Street,” Boyle said.

That ARP money will go toward storm water management renovations at Cottage Street Park, one of the parks slated for an overhaul.

“It’s one of our low spots in town,” Boyle said. “The bottoms of several hills come together there. It’s a really low-lying area, and it’s kind of close to the waterfront. So we will be using some of that money for the rehab of that park.”

Other projects on the horizon

“They’ll be many other projects,” Boyle said. “We’re also looking at the corner of 19th Street and Avenue E. That’s another area where we have some serious flooding concerns. We were able to get the help from Rutgers Cooperative Extension. They came in and did some survey work and designed a couple of assets for us that they configured to that neighborhood. We have to carry the ball for the rest of that project, but we used some connections and got some free work done out of Rutgers. So we have a couple of small projects on the drawing board. And as years go by, we’ll be doing other projects, upsizing the size of our forcemain that connects us to Newark.”

Boyle said that, through the water contract with SUEZ, the city has been making annual improvements to the sewer system.

“There has been improvement annually by SUEZ,” Boyle said. “The water deal requires them to do $500,000 worth of maintenance work annually.”

That $500,000 is part of a $2.5 million capital improvement fund. As part of the contract, the deal allots $1,000,000 for capital improvements, $500,000 for maintenance, and $500,000 for operations every year.

Boyle is no longer in charge of the matter following his resignation in the wake of an alleged illegal audio recording.  A replacement has not been named. But Mayor James Davis said, “This situation will not affect the city’s ability to respond to the needs of our community.”

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