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Sewer Project in Erma Nearing Completion

Sewer Project in Erma Nearing Completion

By Christopher South

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ERMA – The Lower Township Municipal Utilities Authority is looking to complete a $25 million vacuum sanitary sewer collection system in the Erma section of the township by the end of the year.

Steve Blankenship, executive director of the utilities authority, told the Herald that the project, which included about 25 miles of sewer line and got underway last year, was being done in two stages.

“Phase 1 is active,” he said, meaning the system was up and running. “Phase II is in the final stages.”

“By the first of the year homeowners can start to tie in,” he added.

The question about the project’s status was raised by a Herald reader, who then was contacted by Blankenship.

Blankenship said he anticipated that the utilities authority would send out a letter to affected homeowners in early December to let them know they could begin the process of hooking up to the municipal sewer system.

He said the project area covered homes where septic systems were in place. He said the plan, which was developed before he arrived at the utilities authority, was to extend sanitary sewers into areas with septic systems.

Blankenship said normal sewer systems run on a gravity system, where the waste flows downhill.

“But the area was so flat when we did initial review that the vacuum sewer seemed like the best option at the time,” he said.

The vacuum system uses vacuum pumps that suck wastewater to the treatment plant. Homeowners will have to run a lateral line to tie into a vacuum pit at the edge of the nearest road with vacuum lines.

In 2020, when the system was being considered, the cost was anticipated to be $15 million, or about half the cost of a gravity system. However, Blankenship said, during the Covid period prices went up for a lot of different materials, and the project has grown to about $25 million.

However, it was determined that the vacuum system was still the best choice. Blankenship said that no matter what option the township went with, it would have faced the same shortage of materials and increased prices.

“It’s all relative, but in the end this is the best option,” he said.

Blankenship said prices have been settling down now as the project nears completion.

A Herald article from March 4, 2020, reported that the vacuum sewer system would be installed along Breakwater Road and Seashore Road as a way to “quickly bring sewer to the beleaguered area of the township.”

Contact the author, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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