The Authority will act as the steward of the regional wastewater system and will ensure that there is capacity available for any participant community to continue development, without the need to expand the interceptor system (installing larger pipes), while continuing to meet the regulations of Middlesex County Utilities Authority (MCUA) peaking factor limit and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) requirement of no Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) by continuing to operate, inspect, maintain, renew and modify its existing assets to maximize the sewage flows of each segment of the Authority’s system.
The story of the Plainfield Area Regional Sewerage Authority (PARSA) is an interesting one. PARSA was formed in 1995, as part of the Settlement Agreement to the lawsuit brought against the former public operating agency, the Plainfield Joint Meeting (PJM). PJM had operated the sewers in the area since 1913, running a treatment plant until the late 1950's when the Middlesex County Utilities Authority (MCUA) opened its Sayreville treatment plant. The PJM treatment plant was considered state of the art for its time and had secondary treatment at a time when primary was the norm. The original superintendent of the PJM plant was John Downes, who later became the first president of the NJ Water Environment Association. Unfortunately, after the treatment plant was shut down the system fell into disrepair and was subject to several sewer moratoriums that disrupted development in the area. This ultimately led to the 1988 lawsuit by its customer towns. In 1995, it was decided to disband PJM and form a new regional sewerage authority with all eight towns having equal voting rights. PARSA took over all the assets of PJM as well as some of the interceptors owned by Plainfield, North Plainfield, South Plainfield, Green Brook and Watchung.
Today, PARSA operates a 12-mgd regional interceptor system in central New Jersey, serving a population of 135,000, in eight municipalities, in three counties. It employs a total of six full-time employees. When PARSA took over the operations of the regional interceptor system in February 1996 it faced a myriad of problems. Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO's), pipe collapses, sewer moratoriums, and an odor problem that got it named "one of the stinkiest places in New Jersey" on a radio program were a few of the operational issues. One-third of the pipes were approaching 100 years old and the average age was 65+. Cash Flow issues and unwilling workers comprised some of the administrative problems.
In a few short years PARSA grew from poorly run, single focus (flow monitoring for billing) utility to a well-respected regional resource for its eight member communities. It provides flow monitoring, CCTV inspection, and I/I remediation at no cost to its members. PARSA has completed 23 capital projects totaling about $9,000,000. These programs and projects resulted in a 330 million gallon per year reduction in flow, eliminated the SSO's and avoided regulatory action. The staff consists entirely of licensed operators and has won numerous awards from WEF, NJWEA and the USEPA.
Some of the highlights of PARSA's tenure include:
- Solving a decades old major odor problem on the Joint Meeting Interceptor
- Establishing an inspection program
- Establishing a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
- Establishing an effective preventative maintenance plan for the interceptor system
- Implementing an Infiltration/Inflow (I/I) reduction program that led to MCUA reducing PARSA's flow estimate by 330 million gallons per year
- Elimination of repetitive SSO’s
- 19 Years without a lost time accident.
- 2000 WEF George Burke Facility Safety Award
- 2000 Environmental Quality Award from the USEPA, Region 2
- 2005 AEA Wave Award for Best Management Practices (Contract #10 JMI Segmented Sliplining)
- 2006 AEA Wave Award for Best Management Practices (Wireless Data Acquisition System)
- 2010 – Members of the Beijing Drainage Commission visited PARSA to look at the flow monitoring system