Wastewater Effluent Beneficial Reuse Program

The Bergen County Utilities Authority (BCUA) is actively implementing a wastewater effluent beneficial reuse program to provide treated effluent for use by Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) for cooling make-up water and member municipalities for sewer cleaning operations during drought emergencies.

The importance of reusing treated wastewater effluent first came to light during the drought of 1999 when New Jersey experienced firsthand the importance of protecting and conserving potable water supplies. The drought of 2002, even more severe than the drought of 1999, strongly reinforced the need to increase beneficial reuse in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) encourages and promotes wastewater beneficial reuse pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:14A-2.1. During the 2002 drought emergency wastewater treatment plants, such as the BCUA, received authorization under NJDEP Administrative Order 2002-05 to reuse their treated wastewater effluent.

Reclaimed water for beneficial use involves using treated wastewater effluent in place of or to supplement potable water supplies. The following is a just a few of the benefits of wastewater reuse:

  • Reuse reduces demands of valuable potable water supplies.
  • Reuse helps reduce pollutant loading to surface waters.
  • Reuse may postpone costly investment for development of new water sources and supplies.
  • Reuse allows multiple uses of land for agriculture and reuse of reclaimed water.
  • Reuse can save money and can provide aesthetic value.

In 1995 PSE&G began modernizing their Bergen Generating Station in Ridgefield, New Jersey, by replacing two existing steam-generating units with high efficient combined cycle generating units utilizing combustion turbines. This modernization resulted in an improved cooling design and the minimization of air contaminants by utilizing state of the art combustion turbines.

Prior to modernization the Bergen Station utilized a once-through cooling system which diverted approximately 400,000 gallons per day (gpd) from Overpeck Creek and discharged this water to the Hackensack River through a half-mile long discharge canal. The once-through cooling system resulted in the river water being warmed several degrees before discharging.

The modernization replaced the once -through cooling system with a closed-loop cooling towers system designed to minimize thermal discharge and the occurrence of visible plumes. The closed-loop cooling system design required some make-up water to account for evaporative and blowdown losses.

The BCUA and PSE&G desired to conserve water resources, reduce the quantity of discharge from their respective operations, and promote the State and Federal legislative goals of conserving potable water resources and encouraging wastewater reuse. The BCUA had an ongoing supply of treated effluent that was not beneficially being utilized and discharged to the Hackensack River. PSE&G required an ongoing supply of cooling water for the generation of electricity.

Since BCUA’s wastewater treatment plant and PSE&G’s generating station are located adjacent to one another and the treated effluent generated by BCUA is suitable for PSE&G’s cooling water needs, the parties entered into a beneficial treated effluent reuse partnership through a Reuse Supplier and User Agreement.

The abatement of the volume and heat content of the wastewater discharged by PSE&G affected a significant environmental benefit to the Hackensack River.  PSE&G reused 1,258.619 million gallons of BCUA treated effluent in 2014 resulting in an increase of 717.731 million gallons of treated effluent reused from the prior year.  The maximum monthly total of BCUA treated effluent reused by PSE&G in 2014 was 168 million gallons that occurred in July 2014.

In addition to treated effluent reuse for cooling water purposes, the NJDEP authorized wastewater treatment plants, such as the BCUA, to make available treated effluent as a substitute for potable water sources during drought emergencies, pursuant to Administrative Order #2002-05. During the 2002 drought emergency the BCUA provided member municipalities with treated effluent at no charge for the purpose of jet cleaning municipal sanitary sewer pipelines.

The total amount of BCUA treated effluent reused by member municipalities for sewer cleaning operations during the 2002 drought emergency was 21,500 gallons.