May 15, 2017
“Casino Boom Needs Sewers,” read the headline of a 1978 Press of Atlantic City article focused on the new Atlantic County Sewerage Authority (now ACUA’s Wastewater Treatment Facility). The article reveals the importance of hidden infrastructure like the treatment plant has played in the growth of our local economy and fights the misconception that environmental regulation hinders economic development.
The passage of the EPA Clean Water Act in 1972 set wastewater standards for the industry and helped fund the construction of sewer treatment plants around the U.S.
Before the regional plant, Atlantic County had more than 20 small, outdated sewage treatment plants, which discharged directly into streams, tidal waters and other surface waters. Because the standards were lower at the time, the discharge degraded many of Atlantic County’s fresh water resources, estuaries and marine environments.
The regional sewer treatment plant was built to improve public health and prevent pollution. It also increased the County’s capacity for sewage intake – something that would inevitably be needed as the influx of casinos and nearby homes were filled with toilets, showers and sinks.
“The casino-related development boom now facing the county wouldn’t have been possible without the impending availability of sewerage in the coastal region.”
Today, the ACUA Wastewater Treatment Facility cleans an average of 28 million gallons of wastewater from area homes and businesses per day and has the capacity to clean up to 40 million gallons. See how it works:
Wastewater treatment infrastructure also unexpectedly spurred the use of renewable energy in our area. Because of the high energy demand of the plant, (another notable point made in the 1978 article: “… the sewage treatment plant will be a real energy hog”), it was the perfect home for the Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm and a solar project installed in 2005.
The projects relieve the energy burden of the plant and save ACUA more than $500,000 in energy costs per year.
The story of our wastewater treatment plant is just one example of the many ways unseen infrastructure plays a crucial role in progress of our communities. Learn more about the many ways investment in infrastructure is vital to our economy and quality of life in honor of Infrastructure Week 2017 (May 15-19) at infrastructureweek.org.