Brick MUA goes with the flow
advantage of heavy
rains filling reservoir
BY KARL VILACOBA
Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink — yet. On instructions from Chairman Daniel Newman Sr., Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority Director of Engineering Stephen Specht dialed a remote location on his cell, signaling for Metedeconk River water to flow through a 4.7-mile pipeline to the reservoir. After a few moments of lag time came a soft rumble, followed by a surge of water that splashed over a pile of rocks and dispersed into the vast new basin on the Brick-Wall border.
A small group of state, county, local and BTMUA officials held a dedication ceremony Friday to celebrate the largest engineering project in Brick’s history. Some consideration was given to waiting until the ceremony to turn on the valves, but with the considerable rainfall of late — including a morning thunderstorm that left the site muddied and drenched — authority officials felt there was no reason to wait.
"We started to test the system and decided to go for it while the water flow was strong," Newman said. "We took the water while we had it."
Newman estimated that by Friday, 600 million gallons of water filled the 1 billion-gallon capacity reservoir, located on Herbertsville and Sally Ike roads. Depending on weather and river flow, the reservoir could be filled by the end of the month. According to Specht, the water could be treated and consumed today if it was an emergency.
Long-time BTMUA Commissioner Patrick Bottazzi, regarded as one of the earliest advocates for the project, recounted meeting federal engineers in Colorado several years ago to discuss the feasibility of the project. Thinking back to those days, he said he gets "goose bumps" looking at the near-finished reservoir.
"It was a big project and we didn’t know how it was going to turn out," Bottazzi said.
"The first time we turned it on, I got this feeling — I said, ‘My God, it went from a piece of paper all the way to this,’" Newman said.
Along the more than 100-acre property’s perimeter, construction crews and trucks continued work on the paved paths that will surround the basin. Although the reservoir basin is complete, the fishing stations, landscaping, walkways, gazebos, paver bricks and other safety and cosmetic features are still being built. Newman said the BTMUA hopes to open the property up to the public in September.
The BTMUA currently sells water to customers in Brick, Point Pleasant Beach, Point Pleasant Borough and sections of a few surrounding communities. But the "liquid gold" inside the basin, as Brick Township Council President Stephen Acropolis has called it, will almost certainly be sold beyond those areas in the future.
"I think at some point, you’ll see this become a regional reservoir," Acropolis said. "We may not have a choice by that time."
Several officials spoke about how the reservoir will protect the area in events like the drought that ended more than a year ago. But in order for that to hold true, officials noted, the Metedeconk River must also be protected from the threats of pollution and overdevelopment.
Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley Campbell said the Category One designation proposed for the Metedeconk could be enacted some time over the next few weeks. Once in place, the river will be protected by the state’s most stringent environmental regulations.
The 90-foot-deep reservoir is located at the highest point in Brick, a former gravel pit that was once eyed for development as townhouses and a golf course. Water is pumped to the site from an intake valve at the BTMUA’s Route 88 campus, and will be pumped back to the plant for treatment through the same pipeline by the force of gravity. At its maximum capacity, BTMUA officials say the reservoir can provide water to its full customer base for a period of up to 90 days with no other help.