In the late 1960s, Atlantic County officials recognized the need to provide comprehensive wastewater management in the county. At that time, Atlantic County had more than 20 small, outdated sewage treatment plants, most of which discharged effluent into streams, tidal waters and other surface waters. Over the years, the situation resulted in the degradation of the county's fresh water resources, estuaries and marine environments.
In 1969, the Atlantic County Board of County Commissioners (previously referred to as the Board of Chosen Freeholders) adopted the formation of the Atlantic County Sewerage Authority to develop a comprehensive approach to wastewater management. With the necessary state and federal funding secured, construction of the ACUA's Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility in Atlantic City commenced on October 23, 1975. The regional wastewater system began operation on September 18, 1978.
The formation was not only vital to protecting the county's environment and the health of its citizens and tourists, but also vital to the economic growth and stability of the region. Since its construction, the wastewater treatment system has been expanded to serve the needs of residential and commercial development throughout the county as well as demands placed by increased tourism.
Expansion into Solid Waste
In June 1981, the County Commissioners needed to designate an agency to implement the Atlantic County Solid Waste Management Plan. Trash generated in the county had been buried in 46 unlined landfills, which had become a direct threat to our groundwater resources. The Pinelands Commission required that many of these landfills be closed by August 8, 1990.
These new environmental regulations, together with New Jersey's Mandatory Recycling Act, necessitated a completely new system of solid waste management in Atlantic County.
The County Commissioners decided to rename the Atlantic County Sewerage Authority and assigned both the wastewater and solid waste responsibilities to one comprehensive agency -- the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA).
Starting in 1990, ACUA established a nationally recognized system to recycle, compost and dispose of solid waste. A double-lined landfill, recycling center, composting site and transfer station were built on a 360-acre site known as the Howard “Fritz” Haneman Environmental Park in Egg Harbor Township.
The landfill began accepting construction and demolition waste as well as yard waste in 1992. After numerous demonstration projects, the ACUA was approved to landfill municipal trash in 2000. Because of its proximity to the airport, ACUA implemented a nighttime landfilling operation and bird management program to ensure it could landfill municipal waste safely.
Building a Green Future
Recognizing the need to collect and reuse gas at the landfill, ACUA partnered with AC Landfill Energy, LLC, to bring a landfill gas to energy project onsite. Operational since March 2005, the facility provides enough energy to power the entire Environmental Park, with excess energy provided to the grid where it can be used to power area homes and businesses.
Later in December 2005, ACUA's Wastewater Treatment Facility became home to five wind turbines known as the Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm. The energy intensive treatment process and location by the shore made the Wastewater Treatment Facility a perfect fit for wind power. Around this same time, a 500 kilowatt solar project was installed to assist in powering operations. Together, these renewable energies power the entire facility with excess sold to the grid.
In 2010, ACUA implemented several projects to help green its fleet. Four electric vehicle charging stations were installed at the Wastewater Treatment Facility and the Environmental Park. A Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) station was also built at the Environmental Park to fuel ACUA's growing number of CNG collection vehicles and other area fleets.
A green vehicle wash, powered by 100% renewable energy, was constructed to meet and exceed New Jersey stormwater management regulations. It was opened to private and public fleets in 2013.