Mountain Lakes from its earliest days depended on septic tanks and cesspools for its sewage disposal. The large lots helped in this. However, as the Borough developed and more houses were built, this became a problem. Would polluted effluent drain into our lakes? It was natural that the subject of sewerage became stressed increasingly as the years passed.
Starting in the 1960s, study committees were formed, each concentrating on the problem of drainage into the lakes. The third committee was appointed in 1972. It strongly recommended that the Borough be sewered around the lakes — with a watchful eye on the rest of the town. It was felt that we could only afford this partial severing. Then, after the report was finished, in 1975 a fortuitous thing happened. The federal government offered sewering funds to communities that were ready to apply. We were ready! We could sewer the whole Borough for the amount we had felt we could afford for only partial sewering.
Upon passage of a 1975 referendum on fully sewering the town, final plans were prepared by our Borough Engineers, Anderson and Ballis Associates. In 1977, we started a two-year construction project. This project included sewering all the houses built before the 1975 date of the Clean Water Act. The construction firm chosen was Lisbon Contractors.
As they began work, a volunteer group of six to eight citizens met every Friday evening from 6:05 p.m. (when the train got in) to 7:50 p.m. They walked the lines that had just been worked on and the areas where work of the next week was scheduled. Their observations went, in writing, to the construction engineers and were the chief topics of discussion at their regular Monday meetings. The volunteers’ recommendations were welcomed and most were adopted. Interestingly enough, the sewer workers seemed to like the attention. Lisbon’s engineer-in-charge said they did their best work — probably since they knew someone was watching them — and also because they got praise wherever it was warranted.
Usually a project of this size is expected to run significantly over the agreed-upon cost. However, the final construction cost of this project was the contract price of $6,294,569.50 — making history, since there was not one penny of overrun.
The total bond authorization for the sewering was $8,500,000. This included engineering costs, construction costs and an amount paid to Parsippany for increasing their plant capacity. After grants from both the federal Clean Water Act and from the State of New Jersey, and with interest earned on bond sale proceeds, the final cost to taxpayers was 4.2 million dollars.
Ruth Harrison, Oct, 2002