Goldmann, Conford and Haneman.
This is the second phase of an appeal by Lakewood Township from a decision of the Board of Public Utility Commissioners granting Lakewood Water Company an increase in sewer rates. The sole ground for appeal was that the company had not been rendering safe, proper and adequate service. In our earlier decision, Township Committee of Lakewood v. Lakewood Water Company , 54 N.J. Super. 371 (1959), we concluded we would not disturb the rates allowed. However, we remanded the matter to the Board "for further hearing to be held after the close of the 1959 spring season, to investigate and determine whether the capital improvements [represented by the water company to have been made after the rate increases were granted] have in fact been made, as well as their effectiveness. The Board will then file a supplemental report detailing its findings and making a determination as to whether the sewer service now provided is safe, proper and adequate. Upon the coming in of that report we will schedule further argument to determine whether the rates fixed are just and reasonable in the light of the service being provided."
The Board thereupon scheduled a hearing in June 1959 to determine
"(a) whether and to what extent the Petitioner, Lakewood Water Company, has since April, 1958, made the capital improvements in its sewer plant and facilities as set forth in its Petition and in the Board's Decision and Order dated June 12, 1958;
(b) the effectiveness of such improvements as may have been made; and
(c) whether the sewer service now rendered by the said petitioner is safe, proper and adequate."
Following two days of testimony the Board filed a decision wherein, after analyzing the proofs and making a number of appropriate findings, it concluded that the sewer service supplied by the company is safe, proper and adequate.
The parties have agreed that we now decide the matter without further oral argument, on the basis of the record
of the June hearings, the Board's supplemental decision, and briefs.
Our reading of the prior record and the testimony taken at the more recent hearings convinces us that the sewage overflows of which the township complained at the 1958 rate hearings were the result of an unprecedented precipitation in Lakewood during the spring of 1958, as well as the large influx of holiday visitors. There was no comparable overflow or failure of the sewerage system in the spring of 1959.
Evidence at the hearing after the remand was concerned primarily with service conditions during the spring of 1959. There was uncontroverted testimony that the company took definite steps to correct the situation soon after the 1958 Board hearings. It requested its engineering department to make a study to determine just what measures were necessary to alleviate the conditions complained of. The resulting recommendations led to a number of immediate improvements in the collecting system, at a total cost of $23,618. These included the following installations: (1) 1,815 feet of 20-inch trunk main extending from the sewage disposal plant, together with five manholes; (2) 429 feet of 12-inch collecting main in Cedar Bridge Avenue, with two manholes; (3) 997 feet of 8-inch force main in Princeton Avenue and Ninth Street; and (4) a 500-gallon-per-minute pump at the Ninth Street lift station. All these were placed in service between June 16 and November 26, 1958, and had proved effective in meeting the conditions that had existed earlier that year.
The expenditure for the described improvements form no part of the $260,000 program of improvements and additions to the disposal plant, testified to at the 1958 hearing. The primary purpose of this larger capital project is to have sewage pass through trickling rock filters rather than the present intermittent sand filters. Further study has established that the ...