Innovative filters will protect waterways in Randolph Township
By Claire Knapp, Contributing Writer | Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2012 12:19 pm
RANDOLPH TWP. – Local officials are experimenting with a new type of storm drain filter, designed to reduce the flow of surface materials down catch basins that ultimately reach and pollute waterways.
Even the smallest of trickling brooks is vital to the health of humans and wildlife. Each of them flows to a larger brook, which eventually reaches rivers on which millions of New Jersey residents depend for their drinking water. Keeping the natural flow of water free of containments is important even at the local level. For several years, towns across New Jersey have been complying with a state mandate to prevent pollutants from entering waterways. Plans have been created to remove all sorts of road materials, fallen leaves, and litter before they can be washed down storm drains by rain and melting snow.
John Ragan, of Radtke Road in the Shongum Lake section of Randolph, who is also an engineering consultant to the Shongum Lake Property Owners Association (SLPOA), presented the idea of using Flexstorm inlet filters to the township. Ragan’s firm, The Entech Group, in Denville, designed the new dam built at Shongum Lake a few years ago. “We would like to do a pilot program using the Flexstorm filters,” said Ragan at the April 26 Township Council meeting. “Shongum has purchased some of the filters and, depending on how it goes; we would like to work with the town to expand it.”
Ragan said the catch basin filters are significantly less expensive than other similar products, costing less than $300 each. Nonetheless they are still too expense to install in all the drains surrounding the lakes and should be strategically placed. “There is a maintenance faction to be considered,” said Township Manager John Lovell. “I think a pilot program would enable us to develop a good cost estimate.” Residents of the Shongum Lake area have been concerned about pollutants reaching the lake for years. Several years ago, a series of 10 new catch basins were created through which road materials and litter can still reach the lake. “We thought we had made a positive impact by going to a snow removal program that uses less salt, but suspending leaf collections last year because of the October storm has had a negative impact on the lake,” said Lovell. Lovell said there are two types of Flexstorm filters. A heavy duty one would work very well in shopping areas because it would collect oil droppings from vehicles.
“It would be good if we could get mall owners to buy, install, and maintain them, but it may be expensive,” said Lovell. “Once we know the cost of maintenance, we would have a better way of convincing mall owners of the value.” Ragan said the Flexstorm inlet filters have only recently been introduced to New Jersey, since the Illinois based company that makes them now has an official distributor nearby. Due to expense, the SLPOA is investing in only two Flexstorm filters for their pilot program, in which the filters will be strategically placed and maintained. Lovell sought and received approval from the Township Council to purchase three of the filters for a different, more portable use.
“Our thought is to use them for water pipe break repairs,” said Lovell. “When a pipe breaks, water comes gushing to the surface and brings up debris that quickly washes into nearby catch basins. By putting one of the filters in the catch basin, a lot of that debris can be prevented from going down the drain.” The inlet filters are applicable to different uses because they can be easily reconfigured to fit various drainage systems. They can be permanently installed, or as in the type of use Lovell wants to test, are easily used on a temporary basis. A steel frame is inserted below the surface grate of a catch basin, into which the mesh filter rests. In a permanent installation, the mesh filter is periodically lifted out, cleaned, and re-installed. As a mobile unit, the steel frame is also removed and reused elsewhere. “I tend to see these filters as an enormous value in preserving the life of Shongum Lake, as well as helping prevent runoff problems during pipe repairs,” said Lovell.