The Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) will spend about $1 billion over the next decade on extensive repairs to Jersey City’s drinking water and sewage infrastructure.
The move is part of an update to the MUA’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 2011. That year, the EPA ruled that the city department violated the Clean Water Act and the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System General Permit for Combined Sewer Systems.
The EPA said that the MUA had failed to properly operate and maintain it’s combined sewage system, failed to prevent tidal intrusion into the collection system, and allowed the discharge of untreated sewage from the collection system onto public and private property located in Jersey City, “where people have or could come into contact with the untreated sewage.”
The MUA had reported that it needs additional time and money to complete three projects due to a mix of delays and additional work needed. The work will cost an estimated $1.099 billion in upgrades and are expected to be completed up to the end of 2023.
All of the updates to it’s infrastructure upgrades “should result in greater environmental benefits for the residents of Jersey City than the current consent decree contemplates, including the reduction of lead in drinking water, increased conveyance of sewage for treatment, reductions in street flooding, and reductions in residential sewage backups,” per the agreement.
More time and money
The MUA said that they need more time and resources for three projects as part of the agreement: the Phased Work Repairs, the Grand Street Project, and the Pump Station Improvements.
In the Phased Work Repairs for the combined sewage systems to address flooding, sewer backups, and structural and operational sewer defects, the MUA found that the affected sewers had degraded more than the parties anticipated at the time of the decree.
Because of that, the MUA will be creating seven additional phases of repairs to the system along with replacing the lead water pipes and sewer laterals, which will lead to “greater environmental benefits for the residents of Jersey City than the current consent decree contemplates.”
The MUA also found in it’s Grand Street Project to clean and replace the twin sewers that conditions were worse than anticipated, and will require 37,000 linear feet of pipe replacement.
The project would also need work for sewer separations, new pump stations and storm water outfalls to reduce flooding, sewer backups, and combined sewer overflow discharge volumes in the Grand Street Project area.
Additional work needed to complete the project will also incorporate over a mile of additional sewer segments in communities with environmental justice concerns “and will reduce the environmental burden of flooding and sewage backups in these communities.”
The two additional expansions are estimated to cost about $389 million for the Phased Work Repairs and $700 million for the Grand Street Project, which they expect to complete by Dec. 31, 2031.
The Pump Station Improvements for the MUA’s four of it’s fifteen pump stations had run into “unanticipated delays” for three of them, due to “third party property owners limiting property access to [the MUA] to perform necessary work, disagreements with local property owners with regard to the design of the pump stations, and delays in obtaining necessary local and state permits.”
The MUA will be expanding the project to prepare for and adapt to climate change by incorporating higher minimum design thresholds FEMA established after Superstorm Sandy.
This includes raising elevations and adding resiliency measures for 500-year storm events, which are required by the state to be incorporated into the project design for loan funding approval. The expansions will cost about $10 million and are expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2023.