BERKELEY – Ocean County Utilities Authority officials plan to increase inspections of the steel outfall pipe that discharges treated wastewater and sewage effluent into Barnegat Bay and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean, after a one-inch hole in the pipeline was discovered on Oct. 9.
The leak in the pipeline has since been temporarily repaired. But considering the pipeline is more than 40 years old, more leaks are possible over time, said OCUA Executive Director Keith Marcoon.
“Corrosion has advanced in certain areas of the pipeline,” he said. “We will continue to identify any problems and take care of it immediately.”
The OCUA treats sewage and other wastewater from Ocean County municipalities and several in Monmouth County at the plant off Hickory Lane in Bayville. The treated effluent is discharged into the pipeline, which runs across Barnegat Bay off Allen Road in Bayville and eventually into the ocean off South Seaside Park.
“On average, more than 90 percent of the pollutants normally found in the wastewater are removed before discharge of the treated effluent to the ocean at points over a mile from shore at depths of 40 feet or more, with high dilution ratios,” according to the OCUA’s website.
The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a violation notice to the OCUA for the unpermitted discharge of secondary treated effluent to Barnegat Bay on Nov. 20, DEP spokesperson Caryn Shinske said.
But the violation notice is simply a notice of non-compliance with a corrective action, she said.
“In the Ocean County Municipal Utilities Authority’s case, the corrective action was to stop the unpermitted discharge and they did that, as of Nov. 20,” Shinske said. “An NOV doesn’t necessarily require that a penalty be issued.”
The pipeline has been operating since 1979. The pipeline was built roughly five to eight feet into the floor of the bay, depending upon the location. It has a concrete coating on the outside and an epoxy coating on the inside, Marcoon said.
The OCUA is installing a large clamp on the affected area of the pipeline. The work should be completed by the end of this week, he said.
The problem was discovered by the OCUA during a routine dye test of the outfall pipe on October 9, when a helicopter detected a small amount of dye in the bay, roughly 3,800 to 4,000 feet from an onshore Allen Street manhole, Shinske said
“The Ocean County Utilities Authority estimated the leak to be about 50 gallons per minute at that time,” she said.
The OCUA immediately notified the DEP of the leak. The DEP issued a temporary shellfish bed closure on Oct. 12. But neither the DEP or the OCUA issued press releases about the pipeline problem.
The OCUA hired divers on Oct. 17 to determine the exact location of the leak, authorized repairs and ordered a repair clamp, Shinske said.