The Pinelands Commission and the Town of Hammonton continue to advance efforts to eliminate the discharge of treated wastewater from the Town's wastewater treatment plant to Hammonton Creek.
In the early 1990s, Hammonton built a wastewater treatment plant to replace an old plant that did not comply with Pinelands regulations. The new facility was designed to improve effluent quality and to eliminate the preexisting wastewater discharge to Hammonton Creek. The new facility was designed to infiltrate a minimum of 1.6 million gallons per day of treated wastewater in infiltration-percolation lagoons. However, the infiltration facility failed to function as it was designed. As a result, Hammonton was unsuccessful in eliminating the discharge to Hammonton Creek, resulting in a violation of the Comprehensive Management Plan’s (CMP) prohibition of discharging wastewater to Pinelands surface waters.
The Commission and the Town of Hammonton sought to resolve the matter by retaining the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to study the wastewater facility. Additionally, Hammonton hired an engineering consultant to identify specific measures to optimize the infiltration of wastewater onsite. The USGS issued its report in 2010.
In February 2011, the Pinelands Commission required the Town to develop, in consultation with Commission staff, a long term plan for the treatment and disposal of wastewater. The goal of the plan was to abate the long-standing CMP violation and permanently eliminate the discharge of wastewater effluent to Hammonton Creek.
The Commission approved the Town’s Long Term Comprehensive Wastewater Treatment Plan with conditions in March 2014. A revised version of the Plan, addressing all of the required conditions, was submitted to the Commission and approved in April. The Plan calls for building wastewater-supplied overland drip irrigation systems on approximately 26.5 acres of wooded lands at the existing wastewater treatment facility and subsurface drip irrigation systems on approximately 22 acres at nearby recreational turf fields. The Plan also incorporates water conservation measures aimed at reducing flow to the plant. Additionally, the Town will be identifying and rehabilitating problematic components of its wastewater collection system that add extraneous flow to the plant through inflow and infiltration. Importantly, the Plan and the Commission’s resolution of approval provide that no discharge of treated wastewater to Hammonton Creek will occur, except in case of an emergency.
The Town is installing the 26.5 acre overland drip irrigation system in multiple phases. A total of 11 acres of overland drip irrigation piping was fully operational through December 31, 2014, at which time the system was temporarily shut down due to cold weather. During the initial 26 day operations period, the total flow directed to the overland drip irrigation system was 29.2 million gallons which equates to a total average daily flow of 1.12 million gallons per day. The Town reports that the system will be reactivated, even if only temporarily, with the return of above freezing temperatures. Build-out of the remaining 15.2 acres of overland drip will resume in the spring.
Similarly, the Town is installing the 22 acre subsurface irrigation facility in multiple phases. This system will be installed at two depths below the turf on the Town’s recreational fields. Construction of the turf grass system is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015, in anticipation of having the fields ready for play in the fall.
Hammonton’s engineering consultants are providing Commission staff with monthly reports detailing the status of the wastewater drip irrigation system construction and operation and the disposition of the Town’s wastewater discharges.