UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
February 17, 1972
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
CITY OF ASBURY PARK, a municipal corporation, et al., Defendants
Barlow, District Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: BARLOW
OPINION AND ORDER
BARLOW, District Judge.
Plaintiff, the United States of America, brings this action for a preliminary and permanent injunction to restrain the discharge of sewage sludge by sixteen of the named defendants herein.
The Government contends that the practice of discharging sludge into the Atlantic Ocean is in violation of 33 U.S.C. § 407. Jurisdiction is conferred on this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1345.
All defendants operate primary sewage treatment plants in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, New Jersey. The defendants receive raw sewage and separate it into two components -- sludge, which consists of the solids which settle out of the sewage, and liquid effluent. Both the effluent and the sludge are pumped into the Atlantic Ocean through outfall pipes. The point of entry into the ocean is approximately 1000 feet eastward from the beach.
The effluent is chlorinated and customarily pumped into the ocean continuously throughout the year. The sludge, which is composed of water, organic matter and inorganic matter, in varying percentages, is retained in holding tanks during the year and is pumped into the ocean during the three-month period between December 15th and March 15th.
The pumping process is facilitated by diluting the sludge with liquid effluent and/or water. This essentially two-step process of municipal waste disposal has been practiced on the New Jersey coast for nearly forty years.
When this suit was instituted, on January 14th, 1972, the defendants had not yet pumped the sludge contained in their holding tanks into the Atlantic Ocean. On that date, this Court issued a temporary restraining order preventing the defendants from pumping sludge into the ocean for ten days. On January 21st, 1972, the restraint was continued for an additional ten-day period. On February 3rd, 1972, the restraint was continued until further order of the Court.
During December, 1971, and January, 1972, representatives of the Government studied the sludge discharge procedures employed by the Borough of Belmar, which is not a party here. Samplings of Belmar's retained sludge were taken and the effect of its sludge and effluent discharge into the Atlantic Ocean was observed. Belmar's procedures were described as being representative of the defendants herein in that its system was essentially the same primary sewage treatment, septic tank facility employed by the defendants.
FACTS AS TO THE APPLICABILITY OF THE ACT
The defendants' primary sewage treatment plants fall into three categories:
A. SEPTIC TANK (See Exhibit G-37)
Bradley Beach, Avon, Neptune City, Neptune Township, Spring Lake Plant No. 2, Spring Lake Heights, Sea Girt, Manasquan, Point Pleasant Beach and Lavalette all have septic tank systems. A septic tank is basically a rectangular tank with a sloping bottom. As raw sewage enters the tank, those suspended solids with a specific gravity greater than water are pulled by gravity to the bottom of the tank. The suspended solids are both separated from raw sewage and permitted to decompose in the same tank. Decomposition of these removed solids (sludge) is known as anaerobic digestion; that is, the oxidation of organic material, with gases as the by-product.
As gasification takes place, the specific gravity of the sludge changes and some of the sludge will rise to the surface and form a "scum blanket" on the top of the tank. The scum blanket will be made up of hair particles and fibrous materials, as well as some of the organic materials. Thus, there are two layers of sludge build-up, residue at the bottom and the scum blanket on the top, that must be removed.
High pressure hoses, using city water, are customarily used to break up sludge so that it can be pumped. Sludge is generally pumped by positive displacement pumps, rather than by centrifugal pumps which are used for sewage, because sludge is heavier than sewage. It takes approximately five days to break up and pump all the accumulated sludge into the ocean.
B. IMHOFF TANK (See Exhibit G-38)
Seaside Park has an Imhoff tank and Seaside Heights has a more modern version of it, known as a Clari-Gestor. The Imhoff tank is divided into two compartments. Raw sewage is admitted into the upper chamber, or settling compartment, and gravity pulls the solid particles to the bottom. Rather than the solids remaining in the tank, as in the septic tank, they pass through the hopper bottom into the lower compartment. Anaerobic digestion of sludge occurs in this lower compartment, and as gasification takes place a scum blanket will form.
C. PRIMARY CLARIFIER (See Exhibit G-39)
Raw sewage enters the tank and solids, as in the other systems, fall to the bottom by the force of gravity. As the solids settle, rather than building up, they are continuously dragged by a moving chain mechanism to one end of the tank. The accumulated sludge is then pumped to digesters or other sludge treatment facilities. Asbury Park, Spring Lake Plant No. 1, Bay Head and Long Beach Township all use the primary clarifier, and the physical differences among the plants are slight. Anaerobic digestion occurs in these digesters or holding tanks.
Samples of sludge were taken by representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from the defendants' plants. The physical descriptions of sludge varied, depending, in large measure, on which plant was being described. In terms of color, most witnesses described sludge in varying shades of brown, black and gray. The physical consistency was also described as varying from "bone dry" to "99% water". For example, when the EPA took a sludge sample from a sludge pump at Seaside Heights, they found it too watery to transfer into a plastic bag. When, however, a sample was taken from the outfall line at Belmar, the spigot became clogged and a wire had to be inserted to clear the line. Other witnesses testified to the sludge's clogging funnels and pipettes; to its inability to pass through screens of varying dimensions; to its clogging of pumps, and to its clogging of the EPA's water-sampling boat's cooling system strainers to the point of causing that boat's system to fail.
Sludge, generally, is composed of human excretion, household waste from food preparation, laundry waste, commercial waste, dirt, etc. Items such as corn kernels, tomato seeds and prophylactics, sanitary napkins, pieces of orange peel, sand, shaving brushes, toothbrushes, plastic diaper liners, plastic toys and filter-tip cigarettes are some of the items frequently found in primary sludge. Further, sludge is not homogeneous; that is, unless it is mixed, the lighter materials will rise to the surface, with the heavier particles falling to the bottom.
Experts for all parties defined and characterized sludge in a number of ways: a thin suspension of solids; a slurry of solids in a water vehicle -- "slurry" being defined as a mixture of insoluble material in water (gasoline was offered as an example of a pure liquid or fluid); sludge is a plastic solid because it has rigidity and shearing force; sludge is a fluid because it will flow where a shearing force is applied -- "shearing force" being defined as a force applied tangentially; sludge is definitely a liquid if its solids content is less than 15%; sludge is a liquid because it flows; sludge is a liquor -- that is, it contains two states, a solid state and a liquid state.
Total solids tests were performed by the EPA on sludge samples taken from sewage treatment plants of the defendants and others. The results of these tests (along with findings as to the concentration of certain metals in sludge) are found in Government Exhibits G-42 and G-43.
Most of the plants tested showed total solids concentrations of between 6% and 20%; that is, a range of 60,000 to 200,000 solid parts per million.
If sludge has a solids content of 14% or more it cannot be pumped without being diluted, as noted heretofore. The defendants add water and effluent to dilute their sludge. In Point Pleasant Beach, water and effluent is added to sludge at the rate of 10 to 1; in Sea Girt the dilution is 18 to 1; in Bay Head the dilution is 13 to 1, exclusive of the water needed to break up the sludge crust; in Long Beach Township the dilution is between 6 and 8 to 1. If these dilutions are used in conjunction with the EPA's figures for the total solids found in these municipalities' sludge tanks, the total solids to be found in diluted sludge as it passes into the ocean can be reasonably estimated. These results are found in Government Exhibit G-53, and are summarized below:
TOTAL SOLIDS OF TOTAL SOLIDS OF
MUNICIPALITY TOTAL SOLIDS DILUTED SLUDGE IN DILUTED SLUDGE AND
IN SLUDGE STORAGE TANK EFFLUENT MIXTURE
% BY DILUTION DILUTION
WEIGHT ppm RATIO n7 ppm RATIO ppm
BEACH 18 180,000 10:1 18,000
SEA GIRT 9 90,000 9:1 10,000 18:1 5,000
BAY HEAD 7 70,000 3:1 23,300 13:1 5,400
SEASIDE HGTS. 1 10,000
ASBURY PARK 1 10,000 0:1 10,000
LONG BEACH TWP. 19 190,000 4:1 47,500 7:1 27,100
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