Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority
The Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) operates the regional wastewater treatment system for Camden County, New Jersey. Serving a population of 510,000, approximately 77,000 of whom live in the City of Camden, CCMUA treats 80 million gallons of sewage discharged per day, flowing through 135 miles of pipes and 27 pump stations to the utility’s Water Pollution Control Facility. The facility is the third largest in the state, servicing areas that combine denser urban and suburban communities, and the rural countryside. CCMUA is committed to responsible stewardship and sustainability through community service, protecting the water quality of the Delaware, Cooper, and Great Egg Harbor Rivers, minimizing carbon emissions and operational cost efficiency, and ensuring that the plant is a good neighbor to Camden residents.
Camden is one of the most economically and environmentally distressed communities in the country. The city’s industrial past has left it with hundreds of contaminated sites, businesses and industries tightly bordering residential areas, a declining population, and aging infrastructure. Low household income and educational attainment levels coupled with high poverty, unemployment, and crime rates most negatively impact Camden’s majority-nonwhite population, women, and children. In the face of these significant systemic challenges, CCMUA is a leader in how utilities can effectively partner with diverse stakeholders to equitably achieve multiple goals for the communities that they serve.
Projects in Camden’s Waterfront South neighborhood showcase CCMUA’s Triple Bottom Line sustainability projects in action. The neighborhood’s primarily African American and Hispanic populations face brownfields, Superfund sites, and heavy industrial operations located very close to residences. Previously lacking the community’s trust, CCMUA became committed to changing their public perception to that of an ally by directly engaging with the community. Specifically, the utility prioritized addressing the foul odors associated with the wastewater treatment plant. Beginning with a $50-million investment in odor control and the development of agency-wide Environmental Management System, CCMUA used funding from an Open Space grant from the county to purchase the abandoned industrial property at 227 Jefferson Street to turn it into a riverfront park. The finished product was Phoenix Park, which provides waterfront access for Camden residents, eliminates contamination to the Delaware River, and reduces flooding by capturing five million gallons of stormwater. The utility worked with the city, faith-based organizations, residents, local businesses and national partners to design this green space that revitalizes the Waterfront South neighborhood.
CCMUA takes its commitments to revitalizing the city further with its green jobs programs for youth, PowerCorps Camden and Green Ambassadors. Established in Philadelphia in 2013 and later adopted in Camden, PowerCorps is an AmeriCorps program that aims to address the dual challenge of alleviating poverty and improving sustainability and resilience of Camden. The program provides pre-employment training for at-risk young adults, working on Camden’s network of storm sewers, rain gardens, vacant lots, and parks. CCMUA’s other major green jobs program, the Green Ambassadors, is now in its fourth year. Green Ambassadors hires 10-20 high school students for a five-week summer internship, where students work with a variety of projects with the Camden Collaborative Initiative. Forty-five students have completed the program since its inception, and a few are pursuing degrees in environmental science. These programs help break down barriers to employment and foster economic opportunities, while simultaneously transforming Camden into a healthier, greener, more sustainable city.
Camden’s range of equitable water efforts demonstrates how water and wastewater infrastructure can impact many other aspects of a community, including parks and public space, air quality, economic development, and more. Camden is an impressive example of what we can achieve for our communities when we cultivate cross-sector partnerships to address both water and environmental issues.