The opinion of the court was delivered by: BARLOW
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.
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 ...