New Jersey community wins big with America's first smart wastewater collection system

Oradell, New Jersey, located approximately 15 miles northwest of midtown Manhattan, is an affluent community with a population of around 8,000 residents. The employees of Oradell’s Department of Public Works are responsible for the maintenance of the borough’s wastewater collection system buried beneath its 57 miles of tree-lined streets. The wastewater running through these thousands of feet of underground piping eventually finds its way to the regional Utility Authority plant which is ultimately responsible for its treatment and for which the borough of Oradell remits a fee based upon the metered volume being annually dispatched.

An Unexpected Solution
The answer suddenly appeared one day after a basement back-up caused in excess of $27,000 worth of damage to a long-time residents home. Wanting to prevent this type of incident from ever happening again, community leaders began searching for a solution. Oradell’s Risk Manager, Gerard Quinn, mentioned that he was familiar with a company, Eastech Corporation, which provided “Smart” wastewater management systems for the specific purpose of reducing sewage treatment costs and increasing municipal revenues. Included within this “Smart” family of solutions was the ability to prevent sanitary sewer overflows and basement back-ups. The suggestion sounded good, but funding was still an issue.

Mayor Dianne Didio initiated a meeting with Eastech and the discussion that ensued surprised everyone. Eastech was well aware of the economic issues facing most municipalities in America and therefore proposed the following:


Prioritizing the Problems
Eastech engineers, along with experienced personnel from Oradell’s DPW, initiated a five-man Team to achieve the predetermined goals set forth for implementing a fully integrated solution to the community’s collection system issues. The four following areas were selected for immediate evaluation:

  • Basement Back-Ups
  • Shared Infrastructure Reimbursement
  • Inflow & Infiltration Detection
  • Treatment Charge Validation

The plan was to address each of these issues one step at a time with the resulting increase in revenues or ultimate decrease in costs generated by the projects themselves providing the funding for a “Smart” solution that would efficiently serve Oradell’s residents for years to come.

Basement Back-ups
Due to the problems initiated by excessive amounts of fats, oils and grease, basement back-ups had become a reoccurring concern. Not only for some unfortunate homeowners, but also for the borough which was being assessed a $1,000 penalty fee per incident by their insurer while additionally having to shoulder the unexpected costs in overtime payments for municipal employees responsible for cleanup. As a test run, the Team decided to select three problematic sites and install cellular-based 1st Response Overflow Prevention Monitors capable of proactively text-alerting operating personnel of an impending back-up event. Installation at each site was completed within 30 minutes without the requirement for confined-space entry. An alert was received within the first nine months of monitoring. A downstream pipe collapse had caused a potentially damaging situation. Maintenance crews were immediately dispatched and were able to clear the blockage prior to any resident having to face another incident resulting in thousands of dollars in damages. The $1,900 Overflow Prevention Monitor had not only done its job, it more than paid for itself within the first year of operation.

Shared Infrastructure
Two separate wastewater lines from adjoining communities traveled through Oradell on their way to the Utility Authority’s treatment facility. The two lines included the discharge from 105 homes and two country clubs. Since both lines had never been monitored, there consequently was no plan in place for reimbursement to Oradell of either neighboring community’s treatment charges. A pair of High Performance Billing Meters were installed at the entry point from each neighboring community to determine reimbursement charges for the wastewater emanating from each neighboring town. Within a few weeks of collecting data from the meters, it was quickly determined that the increase in annual revenue due to the initiation of these actions would bring in additional funds of anywhere from $45,000 to $55,000. Both meters would pay for themselves within their first 4 months of operation.

Inflow & Infiltration
The installation of a temporary High Performance Billing Meter in tandem with the Utility Authority’s main billing meter for the community showed that of the total annual charges incurred for wastewater treatment, 45% were due to Inflow & Infiltration (I&I). The Team began by employing a new and highly cost-efficient technology from Eastech that was capable of detecting, measuring and locating I&I without the requirement for confined-space entry nor periodic maintenance. In an 8-hour workday, sixteen iTracker I&I Micro Detection Sensors were installed within a seven linear mile basin of the community. The advanced technology iTracker I&I Micro Detection Sensors were capable of pinpointing those areas specifically responsible for the highest volumes of I&I to within manhole segments of 300’. At one of the locations, it was discovered that in a section of the street having only 28 homes with an expected treatment cost of $4,000 annually, the charges due to excessive volumes of groundwater were running closer to $23,000. Remediation of this small area alone would result in annual treatment cost savings of nearly $20,000.

Billing Validation
The Utility Authority billing meter is a combination Parshall Flume/ Ultrasonic Level Sensor. This type of meter is incapable of directly measuring flow but rather determines volume strictly by ascertaining level. When levels rise above the hydraulic measurement capability of the flume, the treatment charges also keep rising in relation to level rather than actual flow. This is exactly what transpired in 2011 during Hurricane Irene. As the level in the flume rose, the daily volume calculated by the level sensor increased to 8.2 MGPD (max. pipe carrying capacity is only 3.8 MGPD) or a charge to the community of $16,400 resulting in a physically impossible single day billing increase of $8,800. According to Laura Graham, Oradell Borough Administrator, “Oradell is now in the process of permanently installing their own high performance Hybrid Technology Billing Meter that will not only have the capability of budgeting treatment costs and monitoring overall volumes of I&I, but will ascertain flows under all conditions so that incidents involving major storm events will never again burden the community with unnecessary expenses.”

Leading the Way
Oradell’s current Mayor, Joe Murray, had this to say about America’s first “Smart” wastewater management system; “In addition to increasing our revenue stream each year by $85,000, Oradell is proud to have been the initiator of a project that will not only benefit our current and future residents for years to come, but will also provide a roadmap for other communities to follow when struggling with funding issues involving the protection and maintenance of our country’s aging wastewater infrastructure.”

Popular perceptions are not always true. We have all heard the complaint that while business is proactive, government is not; while business is innovative, government is not. Oradell stands as a prime example of how a forward thinking community was able to initiate America’s first “Smart” wastewater collection system, and in addition to self-funding the entire process, provided local residents with a “Return On Taxpayer Investment” of over $85,000 annually.

Borough officials review “Smart” wastewater management reports.

I&I Detection Monitor becomes fully operational in 15 minutes without confined-space entry.

NIST traceable Billing Meter monitors flow from neighboring communities.