Councilman Katz Provides Updates On Over-Charged Sewers

One of the biggest challenges our town faces is our over-charged sewer systems. Stormwater systems are designed to control stormwater for the average types of storm events municipalities might reasonably endure. 

In my role as chair of Westfield’s Public Works Committee, I would like to provide a few updates on how we are proactively working to address these issues as storms and surges become more frequent.

In 2021, Tropical Storm Ida produced a great quantity of water in a short period of time and exposed our vulnerabilities. More recently, storms passed through Westfield on July 4 producing 1.95 inches of rain between 2 and 3 p.m., with 1.58 inches falling in 30 minutes and 0.93 inches in 15 minutes. As a result, certain storm drains were overrun before water receded to normal levels. By way of comparison, 4.72 inches of rainfall falls in July on average, which means the July 4 storm was 41% of an entire normal month within just one hour and 20% of an entire normal month within just 15 minutes.

This intense storm burst created runoff issues and overcharged storm water systems in many locations around Town and in the region. Even newly designed storm water systems would not be able to handle that amount of rain in that short amount of time without some minor flooding.

Following Tropical Storm Ida, I was joined by Mayor Brindle and Councilwoman Mackey as we visited the hardest hit neighborhoods to offer assistance, gauge what and where the issues were and start the process of fixing the problem. We held meetings at homes adjacent to the Robinsons branch of the Rahway river, walked the banks at various points of the flume, and invited the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the situation. 

Subsequently, we formed the Westfield Infrastructure Resilience Committee (WIRC) to tackle the issue holistically, working on short-, medium- and long-term solutions. WIRC is tasked with assessing our current Town-wide stormwater infrastructure and its capacity to handle these severe weather events in the future as well as providing recommendations for proactive planning concerning climate resiliency. WIRC’s ongoing efforts will be on mitigating stormwater issues, as well as requiring developers to implement additional stormwater management measures and more stringent requirements around soil grading and usage.

While the long term work is being conducted, we have included smaller-scale drainage projects to address localized flooding issues in our capital budget, including funding for stormwater equipment to analyze our underground sewer system. 

There are no quick and easy solutions to these issues, but residents can be assured that we are all working together to address our over-charged sewer systems expeditiously. 

-Scott Katz

Ward 4 Councilman