MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Sewer systems are not usually seen as a fascinating topic for most people. Middle Township administrator Kim Krauss may be the exception.
“I’m excited,” she said after the Sept. 4 Township Committee meeting, at which the three-member governing body unanimously approved a $211,475 contract with the engineering firm Mott MacDonald to evaluate the pumping stations that move the township’s wastewater to the Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority for treatment.
In a presentation at the meeting, engineer Angelo Bufaino said some of the existing pumping stations are more than 30 years old and in need of repairs and upgrades.
“In general, I think the overall goal for the township should be a systematic approach to improve these pump stations,” Bufaino told Township Committee. He plans to start investigating the stations in the short term, and to have a report outlining the condition within a month, along with a recommendation on the next steps.
Depending on how much the township is willing to spend, he suggested undertaking renovations to four or five stations a year over the next several years. Bringing the older stations up to standard may cost about $200,000 each, and about $50,000 more for the newer stations. He would expect the work would add another 20 years to the useful life of the pump stations, he said.
The contract may also mean answers for township officials.
According to Krauss, the amount of wastewater flowing into Cape May County’s treatment facility from Middle Township has been increasing steadily. Township officials want to know why.
The assessment may help track down areas where rainwater may be entering the sewer system, she said. There are also plans for a detailed mapping of the oldest sewer pipes, including using cameras to search the old terra cotta pipes for cracks.
The pipes in the Cape May Court House section of the township were originally installed in the 1930s, and officials fear there may be undetected cracks in the pipes.
Among the improvements Bufaino recommended was the installation of meters in the stations, so that the township could see exactly how much material was pumped at each station. That would mean the township would have its own data to compare with the numbers presented by the MUA.
“That’s something that we don’t have now, so when we get our Cape May County Municipal Utility Authority bills, we really have no information to argue against them with. We have to take their information at face value,” he said.
It could also alert township employees to problems, especially if the flows spike in heavy rain, which would be a strong indication that rainwater was entering the system, through damage or even a neglected manhole cover.
Finding issues now is like searching for a needle in a haystack, he said, but a new system could narrow that down considerably.
The priority would be to keep stations operational, Bufaino said. That would include setting up systems to bypass a damaged pump if need be. The worst-case scenario would be the uncontrolled discharge of wastewater, he said.
“It’s a sanitary issue. It’s health and safety for residents,” he said.
Some of the oldest pump stations are in the Rio Grande section. Township officials said some are relatively new and in good condition. There are 22 pumps owned by the township, with another near Menz’s Restaurant on Route 47 that has been a matter of question.
Officials indicate that pump is privately owned but had been maintained by the township. A resolution approved at the Sept. 4 meeting ratified an agreement between the Menz’s owners and the township, under which the restaurant would take over the maintenance of the pump station.
The MUA has four sewage treatment facilities in Cape May County, including one in Middle Township, the Seven Mile Beach/Middle Wastewater Treatment Facility at the county’s Crest Haven Complex. Another, the Wildwood/Lower Wastewater Treatment Facility on Wildwood Boulevard, has a Rio Grande address but maps show it just outside the township.