Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Management

Bergen County Utilities Authority (BCUA) Combined Sewer System Communities

Fort Lee, along with Hackensack and Ridgefield Park have drainage areas with “Combined Sewer Systems” (CSS).  During heavy rainfall some of the excess flow may be discharged into the Hudson River. In Fort Lee, a good rule of thumb is to assume that if you live or have a business south of Main Street, the sanitary and storm sewers are either directly or indirectly combined.

Combined Sewer Systems are typically located in older urban areas and were constructed to provide for the transportation of sanitary sewage, industrial discharges and stormwater within the same pipe.  In the case for Fort Lee, the combined sewers were designed to transport all sewage flows and some wet weather flows for treatment at the Bergen County Utilities Authority (BCUA) Water Pollution Control Facility in Little Ferry. The excess flows that are discharged from the Combined Sewer System into the Hudson River are known as Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs).  

The History of CSOs

Combined sewer systems, were and are prevalent in many urban areas. Regulators were installed in the system which are devices that direct all the dry-weather flows to a large interceptor sewer and to the BCUA.  During a rainfall event, the regulators direct as much flow as possible to the interceptor sewer and if the flow exceeds the capacity of the interceptor sewer, the regulator diverts the excess flow to the river resulting in a CSO “event.”

Combined Sewer Systems are regulated by the NJDEP through a discharge permit issued to the Borough.  The permit has many requirements with which the Borough must comply.  In the 1990s, netting facilities were constructed were constructed to capture trash and litter that enters the sewer system, usually by people throwing cups, etc. into catch basins on the street, and prevents it reaching the Hudson River. 

A new permit was issued to the Borough by NJDEP and requires that the Borough undertake a Regional Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Long-Term Control Plan (LTCP).   The objective of the LTCP is to greatly reduce and minimize the amount of untreated combined sewer discharged into waterways.

BCUA, Fort Lee, Hackensack and Ridgefield Park have joined together to form the BCUA CSO Group to develop a regional CSO LTCP.  The LTCP will evaluate the means, costs and effectiveness of control alternatives for reducing the frequency and volume of CSO discharges and will establish a plan, cost, and construction schedule for implementation of the plan.  The LTCP is required to be submitted to NJDEP by June 1, 2020.  However, it is anticipated that the cost to construct potential improvements that will be required to comply with NJDEP regulations will be very high. Due to the extent, complexity and costs involved, the NJDEP expects that towns may need as long as twenty-five to thirty years to fully implement.

What can you do to help now? SLOW the FLOW

As a community and as an individual you can help reduce the amount of water that enters the Combined Sewer System during wet weather events.  This requires that people first understand what a combined sewer is and how our individual actions can have great impact.  For example, runoff from rooves and driveways often directly flow into neighboring catch basins.  This greatly contributes to the excess flows during a rain event that result in CSO discharges.  If you can retain some of the rainwater on your property during the storm, such as with rain barrels, the water can be used for plants or released to the sewer system gradually during dry weather.  The BCUA has a homeowner’s rain barrel incentive program.  Click here for more information on this program,

BCUA is Currently Studying Alternatives

The BCUA CSO Group is near completion of the various studies and investigations needed to develop the LTCP.  The Borough has a “CSO Team” comprised of several members of the community and Borough personnel that are intended to educate and obtain public input on the work being undertaken.  There will be future opportunities for additional public input and comments.  The Borough will also keep all residents informed as this program continues.  

You can find more information following these links:

Bergen County Utilities Authority (BCUA) Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO)

CSO Notification System

The City of Hackensack

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection CSO Page

Clean Water New Jersey