The heavily industrialized service area of northern New Jersey encompasses all of the land draining into the Passaic River from the Great Falls in Paterson to Newark Bay on the Atlantic Ocean. Presently, the service area includes 48 municipalities in portions of Passaic, Bergen, Essex, Union and Hudson Counties with a population of about 1.4 million. The influent capacity is about 330 million gallons per day (MGD) (14.45 cubic meters per second) and is estimated to be a fourth of the total wastewater generated in all of New Jersey.
In addition to the conveyance and treatment of wastewaters, PVSC is also responsible for pollution abatement for the portion of the Passaic River within its service area. The Commission's main intercepting sewer is approximately 22 miles (35.41 kilometers (km)) long ranging from 3.75 to 12.5 feet (ft) (1.14 to 3.81 meters (m)) in diameter, 18 miles of branch intercepting sewers, and a 12-ft (3.66 m) diameter, 6-fingered ocean outfall terminating at Robins Reef in New York Harbor. There are several field pumping stations in the collection system along with approximately 2,000 miles (3,218 km) of lateral sewers owned by the various contributing towns.
A report completed in 1908 provided the conceptual plan for a primary treatment plant and pumping station to be located in the City of Newark near the Newark Bay and for an intercepting sewer to be built parallel to the Passaic River between the Great Falls in the City of Paterson and the mouth of the river in the Newark Bay.
Construction of the original facilities as recommended in the 1908 report was completed in 1924. The original plant contained a 22-mile long interceptor with pumping stations located at Wallington and Clifton, a primary treatment facility in Newark along the western shoreline of the Newark Bay containing a steam plant pumping station and a 5-mile long outfall that discharged into New York Harbor.
Since the completion of the original treatment plant and interceptor in 1924, numerous plant expansions have been made to increase capacity. In the 1930's and 1940's, two additional sedimentation basins were constructed. In the 1950's and 1960's, the sedimentation basins were mechanized, the steam pumps in the main station were replaced with electric and diesel drives, and their capacity was increased. Sludge handling facilities were added and modifications were made to the grit chambers and screenings facility.
The facility originally provided only primary treatment for an average sewage flow of approximately 150 million gallons per day (mgd). Additional construction was initiated in the early 1970's as an important step toward improving treatment, increasing capacity and implementing United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) requirements concerning chlorination. Those projects consisted of the construction of a grit and screenings chamber, grit and screenings incinerator facilities, chlorination facilities and an Administration and Control Building containing an analytical laboratory.
In order to bring the plant into full compliance with more stringent EPA requirements with respect to water quality, an upgrading to secondary treatment levels was undertaken. Plant design for this upgrade began in 1969, with a 1973 report initiating the preparation of construction drawings and specifications. Field construction began in 1977 and secondary plant start-up began in October 1981.
The new secondary facilities were constructed alongside the original existing Primary Clarifier tanks. The first few years of secondary plant operation did not have the benefits of the primary settling facilities. After start-up, all flows passed directly into the secondary system while the old primary basins were demolished (during the summer of 1982) and new ones were constructed in their place. Consequently, start-up of the primary clarifiers in December 1985 resulted in many process and operational changes.
The PVSC is one of the oldest and largest, in terms of operational capability, regional sewerage commissions in the United States and by statute is to be directed by a Board of Commissioners appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate.