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612 Associates, L.L.C. v. North Bergen Municipal Utilities Authority

404 N.J. Super. 531, 962 A.2d 602 (App. Div. 2009)

UTILITIES — An entity that treats sewer effluent is entitled to collect a connection fee from a sewerage generator even though the connection may not be directly to the facility but through the lines of another utility company who is also entitled to collect a non-duplicative connection fee with respect to use of its own lines.

After completing its building, a developer sought to have its sewerage disposal system connected. The developer had to connect the sewer lines directly to a sewage authority but, because of the building’s elevation, the sewage only traveled three hundred feet through the authority’s lines before entering a municipal treatment facility. Both the sewage authority (who was responsible for the sewerage lines) and the municipality’s utility company asserted entitlement to the connection fee for the building’s sewage output. The developer refused to pay two connection fees. So, it brought an action seeking a determination as to which one had the right to collect the fee. The lower court found that only the sewage authority had the right to collect the fee because it had the direct connection to the building. It also ruled the municipality’s utility company only had the right to collect processing fees.

On appeal, the Appellate Division pointed out that the lower court did not consider whether, under the municipal utility statutes and sewage authority statutes, the cost could have been apportioned to the two authorities rather than only having one entity collect the entire fee. It also pointed out that the utility treating the sewage was entitled to fees intended to contribute to the cost of constructing the sewage treatment facility. The Court found that the lower court’s statutory interpretation incorrectly failed to include indirect connection fees for the treating utility. It determined that the developer owed a fee to the municipal authority for the indirect connection to its treatment system and to the sewage authority for the direct connection to the building. As a result, it reversed and remanded the lower court’s decision for a determination of a fair apportionment of the connection fee between both agencies.


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