The spillway and gatehouse at Morris Lake. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Finished water on its way to Newton. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
An interior view of the water filter. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Finished water, and the main to turn off the town's water flow. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
The raw water pipe, with the filters in the filter room. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
The computer tracking the operations of the facility. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
The spillway at Morris Lake, where the water line is lower. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
The sign outside of the water treatment plant. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Town of Newton Residents and Businesses Face Drought Alert
Thursday, August 23, 2012 • 12:50am
NEWTON, NJ – “Right now, we’re experiencing a water alert, it’s recommended people conserve, and we’re trying to express the importance to conserve,” said Debra Milliken, Deputy Town Manager of the Town of Newton.
Milliken led The Alternative Press on a tour of the Town of Newton Morris Lake Water Treatment Plant in Sparta, NJ, where the water for Newton starts its journey, and eventually reaches the taps of residents and businesses.
Morris Lake is 95 acres, and the town owns an additional 800 acres of property enveloping the water source. The Town of Newton has owned Morris Lake since the 1890’s.
Until 2004 when the water treatment plant was opened, water traveled by means of gravity into the town’s water main, and at the old gatehouse was where the process began of fluoridating and chlorinating the town’s water.
In 2004, water was first pumped into the plant for processing.
Once it enters the plant as raw water, it travels through a series of filters in the filter room, where sediment and other natural elements are removed. Next, the water is treated. Then the finished water is stored in two clear wells at 280,000 gallons each, before it leaves the water treatment plant, and travels approximately 10 miles to the Town of Newton.
In the town itself is a two million gallon tank on High Street on Route 94, adjacent to the pond, and near Newton Medical Center.
The Town of Newton uses approximately 900,000 to 950,000 gallons of water daily, Milliken said.
Jack Smalley, the caretaker of the water treatment plant, takes measurements in the lake daily, every day of the year.
“The spillway’s been staying minus 15 to minus 17, and this week it hit minus 20,” said Milliken. “We knew we needed to institute something.”
Smalley keeps track daily of the town’s usage, versus the amount of rainfall, and, the water’s depth.
“I can tell it’s getting lower,” said Milliken, who is familiar with the landscape alongside the lake, and noted how some of the landscape is more visible than usual.
By the spillway, the reduced water depth is evident by the now visible waterline against the spillway wall, where the water had once slapped against it, then climbed over the spillway.
Milliken said the drought is partially attributed to the heat wave the last week of July, into the first week of August, and evaporation.
“Water usage was also increased because some businesses use water to cool their facilities,” Milliken added.
As part of the drought alert to all water customers in town, they are advised not to water lawns, wash cars, or fill swimming pools, as well as to conserve water indoors.
At this point, Milliken said the town has not hit the “warning” level.
“Then we’ll have to enforce,” she said.
If a warning does hit, water customers will receive fines if they are caught participating in activities such as car washing, or watering their lawns.
Readers can click here to read the drought alert issued by the Town of Newton. Town of Newton water customers should follow the Town of Newton website (click here to view) for updates on the drought alert.