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Low-interest loan allows repairs of Sayreville pump station to begin

SAYREVILLE — Work has begun on a 1,700-foot flood wall and other measures to protect the Middlesex County Utilities Authority’s (MCUA) Sayreville pump station from storm surge and flooding as a result of an $88 million low-interest bridge loan provided by the state.

The New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (NJEIT), working in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), awarded the loan to the MCUA as part of an overall effort to protect wastewater and drinking water infrastructure from the kind of devastation that occurred during superstorm Sandy in October 2012, according to a statement prepared by the DEP.

The storm caused an estimated $2.6 billion in damages to wastewater and drinking water infrastructure statewide and devastated the MCUA’s Sayreville and Edison pump stations, resulting in weeks of uncontrolled discharges of wastewater into Raritan Bay.

“The NJEIT and DEP have been working closely with the MCUA and other operators of wastewater and water plants across the state using an innovative funding strategy to make certain this critical infrastructure is protected,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. “We remain committed to this goal as one part of our multifaceted efforts to make New Jersey more resilient against storms such as Sandy.”

“Government is always more effective when we work together to serve our residents,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios. “This innovative funding program with the cooperation of the state agencies and the MCUA will go a long way to protecting our residents, their property and the environment — all of which are priorities for Middlesex County.”

Work on the Sayreville pump station consists of construction of a flood wall and related infrastructure to protect against a 1-in-500-year flood event. The 1,700-foot-long wall will have a maximum elevation of 21 feet above sea level, which is above the 500-year flood plain elevation and takes into account wave actions associated with storm surge, according to the DEP.

The wall will be constructed using cast-in-place concrete supported by piles and underlain with a steel sheet-pile cutoff wall for 900 feet, with the remaining 800 feet constructed with full-height sheet piling and a concrete cap. A 24-foot-wide flood gate will be installed at the station’s entrance road.

The station will also be equipped with a system to prevent flood waters and storm surge from backing up and inundating the pump station. Influent gate valves up to 132 inches in diameter will be installed on major trunk lines to limit flows to the station, and a stormwater collection and pump-out system will be constructed to control stormwater within the floodwall containment area, according to the statement.

A 10-megawatt standby power facility utilizing three diesel generators and one natural-gas generator will be constructed to provide backup power during emergencies. In addition, the existing electrical substation will be relocated to the northeast corner of the facility, allowing for construction of a stormwater overflow basin.

“This funding and the repairs will put us on a path toward greater resiliency for our critical wastewater pumping infrastructure,” said MCUA Executive Director Richard Fitamant. “Mitigating the effects of severe weather events is more pressing every year, so we look forward to better safeguarding our neighbors, the environment and all of those we serve.”

Working together, the NJEIT and DEP have developed the Statewide Assistance Infrastructure Loan (SAIL) disaster relief program to provide short-term, low-interest bridge loans that enable projects to move forward in advance of disaster relief assistance from the federal government, according to the statement.

“The ultimate goal of the program is to not only provide protection for facilities that were damaged by superstorm Sandy, but to make all of our environmental infrastructure more resilient against storms like this,” said NJEIT Executive Director David Zimmer. “This program provides our local government agencies a practical way to plan for natural disasters while managing their finances in a cost-effective manner for their ratepayers.”

The overall cost of storm-proofing both pump stations is estimated at about $123 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has currently committed to paying about $95 million toward both projects. FEMA will provide an estimated $78 million toward the cost of the $88 million Sayreville project, which has a target completion date of winter 2020.

The MCUA is funding the balances for both projects as low-interest loans through DEP and NJEIT, according to the statement. FEMA reimburses the MCUA as each phase of the construction projects proceeds; the MCUA, in turn, will repay the state.

The SAIL program is funded by NJEIT program funds, plus money from prior loan repayments under the state’s successful and ongoing infrastructure improvement program. As the SAIL program expands, the NJEIT is leveraging commercial and private sources of funding to meet additional demand.

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