Friday, March 30, 2012

Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee & Their Impact On Local Water Pollution Utilities

by Laura Kelm, Director of Water Quality Programs

I’m sure we all remember the impacts that Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee had on our homes, businesses, and towns. Great Swamp Watershed Association was curious if the storms had any impacts on the two water pollution control utilities (a.k.a. WPCUs, or wastewater treatment plants) located in the watershed.

The Woodland Water Pollution Control Utility of Morris Township discharges into Loantaka Brook. The plant did suffer a power outage as a result of the storms, but a backup generator was able to keep the plant running as usual. Timothy O’Dell, assistant superintendent of the WPCU, noted that the plant was designed to treat a maximum of 2.2 million gallons per day (mgd), while its average daily volume is only half that amount. This allows excess volume generated by storms to be held and treated afterward to meet state water quality requirements for WPCU effluent.

The Chatham Township WPCU, which discharges to Black Brook, also lost power during the storms, but was kept online with power from a backup generator. The maximum permitted flow at this smaller plant is 0.875 mgd. During the days after Hurricane Irene, the plant saw volumes as high as 2.26 mgd. Marc Christensen, the water pollution control manager, said that while the excess flow meant that the water moved through the plant faster than normal, the WPCU still met all of its target requirements for effluent.

Here are some other interesting facts and figures about these two WPCUs—

The Morris Township Woodland WPCU:

  • had its new system built in 1992 to provide tertiary treatment.
  • can retain 1.5 mgd for future treatment.
  • has no combined sewer overflows (aka. CSOs).

The Chatham Township WPCU:

  • has a normal flow under 0.875 mgd.
  • took precautionary measures before Irene hit, including reducing the amount of solids held in inventory, in order to hold greater capacity during the storm.
  • increases its flow during precipitation events because of open tanks at the WPCU, some infiltration from manhole covers and pipes, and some illegal hookups of rain gutters into sewer lines.
  • has no combined sewer overflows (aka. CSOs).
  • measured the following flows after Irene: 1.54 mgd on 8/27/20112.26 mgd on 8/28/20111.435 mgd on 8/29/20111.441 mgd on 8/30/2011, and1.167 mgd on 8/31/2011.

Reprinted from Great Swamp Watershed Association, Across The Watershed, Spring-Summer 2012.


Editor's note: The spate of turbulent weather in the Great Swamp region that originally sparked our interest in learning more about what happens at our local Water Pollution Control Utilities has stuck with us for many months. How much of what we have experience—hurricanes, tropical storms, rampant flooding, mild winters, and unusual snow falls—actually demonstrate the effects of global climate change on our small corner of the world?

We decided to go in search of some answers that we could share with you in the form of one of our regularly schedule, early morning Breakfast Briefings.

On Tuesday, April 10, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Professor Anthony Broccoli, director of the Rutgers Center for Environmental Predication, will try to help us understand what to expect of the changing weather in our state in the coming months and years. He also will explain studying the causes of climate change might help us all prepare for what is coming.

Please join us at GSWA's headquaters located at 568 Tempe Wick Road in Morristown, NJ, for this very special presentation.

Register at if you wish to attend, or give us a call at 973-538-3500 x22. Registration is free for current GSWA members. Non-members are asked to make a voluntary donation of $10/adult and $5/child (6-17 yrs.), or $30/family (includes 4 or more people).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring's Almost Here! Time To Get Out And Volunteer!

Need an excuse to more spend time outdoors? Want to protect the local environment? Think you have what it takes to help out in your community? If so, then Great Swamp Watershed Association invites you to volunteer with us in March. Help us clean and enhance our open spaces, and learn how you can help protect our local streams and waterways from contamination and destruction. It's easy, and we'll supply the equipment you need. Here are some upcoming events where you can help—

March 18 — Annual Stream Cleanup & Enhancement at Loantaka Reservation

GSWA will hold its annual stream cleanup and enhancement at Loantaka Brook Reservation on March 18, 2012 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Activities along the banks of Loantaka Brook will include invasive plant removal, planting native plants, and trash cleanup. Volunteers ages 15 and above should wear long pants, long sleeves, and shoes or boots that can get wet and muddy. Participants should gather at the South Street Recreation Area located at 434 South Street, Morristown, NJ.

Click here to volunteer for this event!

March 24 — Spring Cleaning Day at the CMA

Please join GSWA's Dir. of Outreach and Education and Land Steward Hazel England from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for a spring cleanup at our 53-acre Conservation Management Area (CMA) in Harding, NJ. GSWA relies on the support and work of volunteers as we maintain and restore this important open space to become a functional floodplain forest again. Work on March 24 will focus preparing the property for springtime visitors. Tasks will include chipping, mulching and edging trails, cleaning nest boxes so they are ready for spring residents, and carrying lumber to help build boardwalks over the wettest portions. All tools and supplies will be provided. Show up with energy and enthusiasm, and we will handle the rest. Location: GSWA CMA, 1 Tiger Lily Road, Morristown, NJ.

Click here to volunteer for this event!

March 31 — Stream Assessment Training for Volunteers

Want to get outside and help GSWA? We are looking for a few good volunteers to conduct visual assessments of streams in our watershed. Visual assessments are conducted at stream reaches throughout the region twice per year, and they help us to know what’s happening along our streams. During an assessment, volunteers record information about the amount of canopy cover over the stream, nearby land uses, the clarity of the water, and more. Before you are ready to conduct an assessment, you will need to attend our training session. Our next training session takes place on March 31, 2012, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and will also cover macroinvertebrate assessments. Location: GSWA Office, 568 Tempe Wick Road, Morristown, NJ.

Click here to volunteer for this event!

*Please remember to dress and prepare appropriately for all our volunteer events. Outdoor work will often be wet and muddy, so boots or sturdy shoes are recommended. Long pants and long-sleeve shirts are also recommended. Please feel free to bring your own snacks, and we encourage the use of a reusable water bottle for any beverages you bring along. Please remember to recycle or properly dispose of any refuse.

For more information, visit Write to GSWA at, or call us at 973-538-3500.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Great Swamp Watershed Association Announces Spring 2012 Speaker Series

Breakfast Briefings keep you informed about the local environment without missing time at the office.
Morristown, NJ—The Great Swamp Watershed Association is pleased to announce speakers and presentations scheduled for its Spring 2012 Breakfast Briefing Series. GSWA created the Breakfast Briefing Series in order to help busy professionals stay informed about community environmental issues without taking valuable time away from work or family life. Presentations are kept brief, focus on current environmental topics, and minimize overlap with most traditional business hours. Unless otherwise noted, all Breakfast Briefings take place on the second Tuesday of each month from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at GSWA’s headquarters located at 568 Tempe Wick Road in Morristown. Seating is limited, so online pre-registration is recommended, visit GSWA members attend at no additional cost. Non-members are asked to make a voluntary contribution of $10 per adult at time of registration. A continental breakfast is served at all events.

This spring’s scheduled presentations will cover eco-friendly landscaping, weather and climate changes in New Jersey, a discussion of threats to New Jersey’s critical forests and woodlands, and a summary of findings from an ongoing study of Great Swamp’s bugs, worms, mollusks, and other tiny spineless creatures. Speakers will include Professor Anthony Broccoli, director of the Rutgers Center for Environmental Predication, environmental author and landscape designer Leslie Sauer, Drew University Emeritus Professor of Biology Leland Pollock, and GSWA’s own Hazel England, director of education and outreach, and Laura Kelm, director of water quality programs. Our first briefing takes place on Tuesday, March 13, 2012.

Here is GSWA’s complete Breakfast Briefing schedule for Spring 2012—

Landscaping for the Environment
Tuesday, March 13, 8:00—9:30 a.m.
Kemmerer Library, 19 Blue Mill Road, Harding Twp., NJ
Want to learn how to make your yard more eco-friendly? Join Great Swamp Watershed Association’s Laura Kelm and Hazel England as they discuss ways to improve your landscaping to benefit local wildlife, water quality, and environmental conservation. We’ll start by reviewing simple tips and techniques designed to help you choose native plants that can manage the water on your property and keep pollution out of nearby streams. Later, you will learn which of those plants and shrubs do well under conditions found in the Great Swamp watershed, and which ones attract beneficial wildlife. This event includes an indoor presentation and an outdoor tour of recent plantings at Harding’s Bayne Park. Kemmerer Library is in no way responsible for the content or views presented during this event. Please note alternate location of this event.

Why Is New Jersey’s Weather Changing?
Tuesday, April 10, 8:00—9:30 a.m.
GSWA Headquarters, 568 Tempe Wick Road, Morristown, NJ
Hurricanes, freak snowstorms, 100-year flood events –what’s coming next?  If you’ve worried about our weather over the last twelve months, or the overall effects of climate change on your life here in New Jersey, you need to join us for this presentation by Dr. Anthony Broccoli, director of the Rutgers Center for Environmental Prediction. Professor Broccoli will tell us what to expect of the changing weather in our state, and he also will explain how study of the causes of climate change might help us better prepare for what is coming. Climate change will have profound effects on our environment and our society. Use this opportunity to inform yourself about the local consequences.

The Future of New Jersey’s Forests
Tuesday, May 8, 8:00—9:30 a.m.
GSWA Headquarters, 568 Tempe Wick Road, Morristown, NJ
What is going on with the woods?  What threats do New Jersey’s forests face? Join Leslie Sauer, founder of the ecological restoration consultancy Andropogon Associates and author of The Once and Future Forest, as she speaks about the environmental and manmade threats facing New Jersey woodlands. Topics covered may include deer overpopulation, non-native invasive species introduction, forest fragmentation, and logging plans. What do we have to watch for in our state and protected forests next time we are out for a hike in the woods? Come to this talk and find out!

Unlock the Secrets of Great Swamp's Small Creatures: 2011 Findings from an Ongoing Study of Macroinvertebrates
Tuesday, May 22, 8:00—9:30 a.m.
Kemmerer Library, 19 Blue Mill Road, Harding Twp., NJ
Macroinvertebrates—known outside of scientific circles as bugs, worms, mollusks and other small, spineless creatures—are useful when it comes to studying water quality and environmental conditions in and around a stream. For instance, dragonflies, aquatic snails, and flatworms can indicate whether the water in a stream is truly clean.

Drew University Emeritus Professor of Biology Lee Pollock, has studied these small creatures each year in the Great Swamp watershed since 1992. Join us to hear findings from his 2011 studies, along with his long-term view of environmental trends and what they mean for our local waters. There is no suggested donation requested for non-member attendance. Please pre-register online at Kemmerer Library is in no way responsible for the content or views presented during this event. Please note alternate day and location for this event.

For more information about GSWA’s Breakfast Briefing Series, please visit or call 973-538-3500.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Meet Renowned Attorney Jan Schlichtmann At Public Screening of "A Civil Action"

Great Swamp Watershed Association will show film, starring John Travolta, at Morris Cultural Center on March 22.


Morris Township, NJ—Jan Schlichtmann’s dogged pursuit of justice for families torn apart by environmental pollution nearly cost him his career. In the 1980s, the personal injury attorney took on a lawsuit that would have an extraordinary impact on the environmental movement in the U.S. The suit, Anderson v. Cryovac (or Woburn as is it more commonly known), pitted residents of the town of Woburn, Massachusetts, against two manufacturers, W.R. Grace and Beatrice Co., who allegedly discharged carcinogenic waste into Woburn’s water supply that eventually lead to the leukemia-related deaths of several local children.

The facts of the Woburn case, as well as the extraordinary expense incurred during prosecution, caught the attention of writer Jonathan Harr.  After numerous years of research, Harr turned Schlichtmann’s story and the story of the Woburn families into a work of nonfiction titled, A Civil Action. The book, which was published in 1995, garnered several prestigious nominations and awards, and was eventually turned into a major motion picture. In 1998, Academy-Award-nominee John Travolta was tapped to portray Schlichtmann in the theatrical version of A Civil Action, which opened to substantial critical acclaim. Co-star Robert Duvall would eventually win an Oscar for his supporting role in the film.

Although the plaintiffs never won their original case in court, the Woburn suit set a precedent for the use of environmental science research and testimony in the courtroom that has been replicated time and time again. This is the procedural mark Jan Schlichtmann has made on the legal landscape of the U.S., and the victory that has made him a significant figure in the environmental movement.

The Great Swamp Watershed Association will host a special evening of conversation and discussion with Mr. Schlichtmann on Thursday, March 22, at the Morris County Cultural Center located at 300 Mendham Road in Morris Township, NJ. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and a public screening of the film A Civil Action (115 minutes) will begin promptly at 7:00 p.m. After the screening Mr. Schlichtmann will answer questions about the Woburn case, his life during and after its prosecution, and the legal and advocacy projects he has undertaken in its aftermath, including the founding of the Legal Broadcast Network, the establishment of The Civil Action Center, and his mission to protect urban forests and shade trees from destruction.

Please join us for this very special event!

What:  Public screening of A Civil Action starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall

Where:  Morris County Cultural Center, 300 Mendham Rd., Morris Township, NJ

When:  Thursday, March 22, 2012 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.

Who:  Jan Schlichtmann, the personal injury and environmental attorney who inspired the film

Register:  Seating is limited. Please pre-register online at Attendees are asked to make a voluntary donation of $10 to cover costs associated with the event.

For more information, write to or call GSWA at 973-538-3500.