Hoboken Flood Forum – recap
A Cablevision news story about the flood forum Dawn Zimmer hosted last week. Read the recap after the jump.
The Flood Forum yesterday evening lasted about an hour and 20 minutes with about 45 people who came to hear from experts and brainstorm about the problem. With an election just weeks away, supporters of both fourth ward candidates were on hand. People who came solely to hear about flood control ideas occasionally got caught in the crossfire.
Read more about the guest speakers, the makeshift “conference call” and more from this recent crack at exploring alternative solutions to alleviate Hoboken’s knee deep flooding issues after the jump!
ANJEC Reps Talk Storm Water
The meeting began with comments from representatives of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. ANJEC’s Abbey Fair came to talk about setting up Storm Water Management Plans. She noted Hoboken actually already has one, and “this is great.” She also recounted how Hoboken has a complicated problem with its Combined Sewer Overflow, because CSO’s don’t have to comply with some key regulations.
Fair suggested the city develop a mitigation plan along with the storm water plan, which could include raising money from developers to retrofit areas in need of improvement. However, it was unclear whether this could be done since the city does not own the sewers, after selling them several years ago to the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.
Hackensack River Keeper Talks Sense
Captain Bill Sheehan is the founder of Hackensack Riverkeeper, which has worked to clean up the Hackensack River. Sheehan noted he was a Hudson River fisherman as well, and that the sewer and storm water discharges from Hoboken have a deleterious effect on the Hudson every time it rains, though he noted this is a permitted activity.
Sheehan said the next time you see sewers overflowing with storm water and sewage in the streets you should call the NJ Department of Environmental Protection at 1-877-WARN-DEP and tell them what you see. He said DEP would send an investigator to file a report. They did this in Hackensack until the pressure was so great the city was forced to do something about the problem. Only after the city was embarrassed (like Hoboken has been here on 411) did Hackensack “find the money” to fix the problem.
Captain Bill Explains System
Sheehan went on to discuss how three municipalities are sending sewage and storm water to the NHSA treatment plant at 16th and Adams. When it’s not raining the biological agents in the system do their job, but when it rains the added liquid can scour all the agents out of the system, causing a longer term shutdown. That’s why the town turns into a bathtub full of sewage and storm water when it rains – because NHSA stops treating it.
“Smart Growth” Not so Smart?
Captain Bill said he told the new DEP chief that the state’s official “Smart Growth” initiative to develop in cities is actually causing more problems. Hoboken Community Development Director Fred Bado and Mayor David Roberts often refer to Smart Growth when one of their favorite developers wants to put up a 12-story condo tower. Sheehan says “Smart Growth on top of Dumb Sewers makes us all look stupid,” because the combined sewer and storm water infrastructure is old and antiquated in the areas the state is pushing “Smart Growth” in.
Sheehan recommended the development of Green Roofs allowing water to stay within a building system as opposed to just pouring into the storm drains. He said concentrated down spouts on buildings are bad, and contribute to the flooding problem. However, it is unclear if Hoboken’s construction code would allow people to start redirecting their roof drains to reuse the water in their back yards. He said they had to change the ordinance in Bayonne to allow this, and may have to do so in Hoboken as well.
What’s in this floodwater, anyway?
Captain Bill also noted flood waters in Hoboken include human, industrial, and medical waste from Hoboken University Medical Center. Mike Russo disagreed about the medical waste part, which he said was closely monitored. Captain Bill said he meant the disease-filled human waste from HUMC patients is getting into the streets.
Russo also asked Sheehan about whether it sounded like a good idea to add to the available storage in the sewage system. The riverkeeper said inline storage could be added with gates and dams allowing for retention/detention and could be part of the solution. Russo noted the SW6 proposal includes this kind of additional capacity.
It was also mentioned that several small steps could help alleviate the problem, even though authorities like the NHSA often go straight to the “Big Bucks Solution” while ignoring smaller steps that can help as well.
Notre Dame discussion doesn’t go so well
Notre Dame professor Jeff Talley joined the conversation via conference call along with a representative of EmNet, which is the company trying to commercialize the experimental technology being used in South Bend, Indiana. The organizers of the event tried to put a microphone in front of a cellular phone as the method for the Q&A session involving the people on the conference call, which was not the best idea. Many people in the room couldn’t hear.
People who made their way to Third and Jackson to hear how this South Bend technology was going to fix the Hoboken problem were disappointed. The professor said he didn’t know about Hoboken, hadn’t seen schematics, and couldn’t say whether this technology would be of any help here. They could only speak about South Bend.
Some people were annoyed by this, and pushed for some nugget of information about how this Notre Dame technology could help. The experts on the phone said it sounded like the storm water was overloading the physical collection system, and that they could at least put sensors into get a better sense of where the problems start. People in the room said they could tell them exactly which intersections flood first without any fancy electronics.
No Clear Answers on South Bend Solution
When pushed, one person on the conference call actually said it was “inappropriate to talk about Hoboken” because they hadn’t looked at the system. This was met by some groans, and Dawn Zimmer decided to cut off the questions, thank the people on the conference call, and move on before it could get more combative. Zimmer mentioned the possibility of another forum, perhaps online, sometime down the road so some of the Hoboken-related questions could maybe be asked and answered by the Notre Dame people at some later date.
When pressed by Russo about whether the South Bend system could actually cause backups in other parts of Hoboken, the professor again apologized and said he would be happy to meet about the specific challenges in Hoboken some time in the future. Zimmer apologized for the lack of specific information from the professionals on the conference call, and indicated they will follow up later.
Campos Takes a shot
Before the event broke up Chris Campos gave a little speech about how everyone is looking for the silver bullet to fix the flooding, and that the NHSA’s ejector pumps will help. He then gave his often repeated speech about how the Zoning Board allowed variances to allow the construction of the SkyClub’s two 17-story towers in the flood zone that have made matters worse. Peter Cammarano and Michael Russo sat with Campos. Terry LaBruno was also there. Vanquished 5th ward candidate Perry Belfiore was also there. The man who beat him — Peter Cunningham — arrived just before it ended.
Without further pubic comment or brainstorming, Dawn Zimmer ended the flood forum just before 8:30pm.
Here’s tonight’s Agenda:
Hoboken Flood Forum
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
315 Jackson Street, Fellowship Room, Church of God of Prophecy
6:30: Refreshments, and sign-in
7:00: Speakers begin, followed by Q&A sessions
Captain Bill Sheehan, Founder, Hackensack Riverkeeper
- Mr. Sheehan will speak about Hoboken’s combined sewer system and the implications of our town’s development, including its affect on our health and the environment. He will briefly discuss potential solutions to our City’s flood problem.
Abbey Fair, storm water regulations specialist for ANJEC The Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions
- Ms. Fair will speak about how a storm water management plan helps towns address their flooding, and talk about the key elements of a plan.
Ed Friedrich, Concerned Resident of Hoboken
- As the president of his condo board, Mr. Friedrich received the call from his building’s first floor resident when her apartment was filled with water. Determined to look for solutions, he researched and reached out to Notre Dame University to find out more about their cutting-edge wireless technology used in South Bend, Indiana.
Conference Call Q&A session
- Notre Dame University Professors and Luis Montestruque, President, EmNet, LLC as well as Johnson Controls.
Background on Speakers:
- Mr. Sheehan is a dedicated, active conservationist who founded Hackensack Riverkeeper in 1997 and serves as the organization’s Executive Director. This organization is dedicated to protecting and defending the environmental quality of the Hackensack River. They proactively promote sustainable development by working with local planners. They also help local, state and federal agencies identify sources of pollution to ensure compliance and enforcement of all environmental laws and regulations.
- Ms. Fair, a storm water regulations specialist for ANJEC has extensive knowledge about the storm water management regulations governing cities. She works as the expert on this issue for ANJEC, an organization dedicated to promoting public interest in natural resource protection, and sustainable development.
- Jeffrey Talley, PhD., Notre Dame University
Dr. Talley specializes in the environmental processes and treatment of contaminated surface water, groundwater, and soil and sediment. He received a grant that eventually led to the development of wireless technology used to alleviate flooding in South Bend, Indiana. Several of his colleagues will join the conference call discussion, including the Luis Montestruque, President of EmNet, LLC, a company that has begun commercializing this flood-mitigating wireless technology.
Starts tonight at 7pm, get there early for “refreshments”. 411 has a prior obligation. Who wants to submit the report?
Next Tuesday, October 16th
Wireless Technology Offers Solution to Hoboken’s Flood Problem
New, innovative technology developed by Notre Dame University offers hope for Hoboken to finally alleviate its flood problem in the near term, rather than waiting years for the Southwest to be developed. This exciting wireless technology will be discussed at the Hoboken Flood Forum I am sponsoring on Tuesday, October 16th. Ed Friedrich, a resident concerned about the flooding, learned about this cutting-edge technology. He is part of an informal flood group that began after the community meeting at Legal Beans.
Using a decentralized network of wireless sensors and nodes that communicate with each other, experts turned South Bend, Indiana’s Combined Sewer System (CSS) into a “smart” sewer system, alleviating the sewage backup problem. Any town with a Combined Sewer System could benefit from the same technology, including Hoboken, New York City and hundreds more throughout the country. This real-time system can predict when flooding will occur, opening and closing gates to better manage the water flow in the system, reducing and perhaps even eliminating combined sewage overflow problems.
Solution Offers Cheaper and More Immediate Alternative:
South Bend initially planned to spend $200 million over many years to create a separate system for their storm water and one for their sewage system. This innovative technology enabled the town to spend an estimated $4.6 million on alleviating their sewer overflow problems in only about two years. The population of South Bend is 107,000, 2.5 times larger than Hoboken.
New York City and even the Department of Homeland Security are interested in Notre Dame’s technology as well. Our flood group invites Mayor Roberts, Hoboken’s elected officials, and local residents to come and hear about this cost-effective solution to alleviate our town’s flood problem in the immediate future.
Hoboken Flood Forum:
Tuesday, October 16th, 6:30 Refreshments, 7:00 Program Begins
315 Jackson Street, Fellowship Room, Church of God of Prophecy
Tel Contact: 646.831.4890