ALLENTOWN — Municipal officials in Allentown have announced that the borough has received a first place award for Project of the Year from the American Society of Civil Engineers/New Jersey Section for its waste water treatment plant upgrade.
In a press release, borough officials said, “We could hardly be prouder of this important award and acknowledgement of the many years of hard work and teamwork needed to bring this project to fruition.”
Allentown, a community of fewer than 2,000 people, has just executed an upgrade to the
entirety of its waste water treatment plant to bring the infrastructure on Breza Road into compliance with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) permit, according to municipal officials.
The permit sets the limitations for the waste water effluent that is discharged from the treatment plant into Doctor’s Creek. The improvement of the effluent from before the plant was upgraded to after the plant was upgraded is striking, and the clarity of the water is evidence of the improved treatment process of which the borough can be proud, according to a press release.
The treatment plant uses a state-of-the-art and innovative solution to properly treat waste water, all while happening in a very small area of land, according to the press release.
Borough Administrator Laurie Roth said, “As the borough administrator, I am pleased the borough is being recognized for the waste water treatment plant improvement project. This facility has been an albatross around the neck of Allentown for decades.
“Now the borough has a state-of-the-art waste water treatment facility that will be better able to serve our community for generations to come.
“I am not surprised Roberts Engineering Group is being recognized for their work on this project. They have made Allentown proud with their creative and innovative engineering solutions,” Roth said.
Mayor Thomas Fritts said, “Our initial plan was to refurbish the old treatment plant. What we ended up doing was a new plant that cost less than the plan to refurbish the old plant. This project has really set us up long-term. You cannot ignore infrastructure for 30 years.”
Allentown officials provided a history of the treatment plant. They said that beginning many years ago, the treatment plant began to fail.
In the 1990s, several treatment units, including the sand filters and rotating biological contactors, failed and were not repaired. This led to a slow deterioration of the remainder of the plant.
The remaining treatment units consisting of sediment tanks and a trickling filter slowly failed also. The trickling filter was repaired multiple times, but eventually even though the unit could operate mechanically, it could not operate properly and essentially no treatment was obtained.
The settling tanks had parts and pieces fail, which were not replaced. About seven years ago, the treatment plant was essentially a primary treatment plant in which many gallons of sludge were removed from the site daily, according to borough officials.
The new waste water treatment plant has removed the trickling filter; has brought the sediment tanks up to proper treatment standards; has installed a sludge collection and storage area; has installed a treatment unit known as an IFAS system (Integrated Fixed-Film Activated Sludge); has upgraded the entirety of the electrical system; and has raised all tanks to be above the elevation of a 100-year flood.
In the past, there were attempts to design a new treatment plant. The first two attempts
many years ago made it to paper, but never made it to construction, according to municipal officials.
The third attempt was fully designed and bids were received. However, the bids came in much higher than anticipated and borough officials realized the proposed improvements did not provide a complete upgrade to the plant. The bid price was just the beginning and municipal officials expected a cost of millions more.
The current plan provided by Allentown’s borough engineer, Roberts Engineering Group, used the innovative IFAS system.
The IFAS system combines the best of a trickling filter type treatment, which is called Fixed Film Biological treatment, and the best of an activated sludge system, which is suspended growth biological treatment, and put them together in a high intensity unit in a small area, which enables the borough to provide the necessary treatment on the same land area where the treatment plant has always been, according to municipal officials.
The waste water treatment plant project has been a team effort by the Borough Council; Borough Administrator Laurie Roth; Borough Attorney Gregory Cannon; and Borough Engineer Carmela Roberts of Roberts Engineering Group.
Cannon and Roberts worked closely with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to negotiate an agreement in which Allentown officials pledged to perform an upgrade of the waste water treatment plant. Roberts was able to design the plant, submit permit documents and oversee construction in the timeline that was required by the DEP.
In recent years, Allentown had to pay fines issued by the DEP for not meeting the waste water effluent quality limits outlined in its NJPDES permit. Since Roberts has come into the project to design and assure proper construction, the borough has not been assessed any fines due to missed deadlines, according to borough officials.
At the present time, the treatment plant is operational and is meeting its effluent limitations, and the borough’s deadline to certify operation to the DEP has been submitted early.
Borough officials thanked everyone who, over many years, were part of creating and
supporting the upgrade to the waste water treatment plant. Officials also thanked the borough’s contractor, Pact Two Construction, for the installation of the DEP-compliant treatment plant.
In other municipal news, Borough Council members have announced that Allentown’s annual 5K run will be held on Sept. 17; that at the present time there are no vacancies in the downtown business district; that drainage improvements have been completed on Quinn Road and on Waldron Road; and that meetings of the mayor and council will continue to be held in person at Borough Hall and broadcast live over Zoom.