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Dirty Water Déjà Vu

Date : Mon, 8 Feb 2010 16:45:26 -0500

  For Immediate Release
February 8, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, Director, 609-558-9100

Dirty Water Déjà Vu

The builders and their allies in the Legislature are at it again, working to roll back protections for New Jersey’s critical waterways. The bill they are pushing, A2070, is a direct threat to our drinking water supply and will promote sprawl and overdevelopment.

A2070 will delay and weaken protections of New Jersey’s critical waterways by gutting the state’s Water Quality Management Planning rules. This bill is back again, even though Governor Corzine vetoed it in January. The EPA came out against it because it violated the Clean Water Act and the builders challenged it in court and lost.

“This legislation will not only cause downstream flooding but will threaten our drinking water. If the Legislature passes this bill, it will prove they care more about taking care of their contributors, business partners, and friends than they do about protecting the public’s water ways,” NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

The reason this bill is back, despite every major paper in New Jersey editorializing against it and significant citizen opposition, is because the special interests have the goal to attack and destroy our waterways so they can increase their profits. They are relentless in this pursuit; first the builders lost in court on the water rules, then on C1 streams and buffers, and also on using the Landscape Project to protect endangered species. A2070 has been on the builder’s wish list for the last couple of years and is part of the ongoing assault on environmental protections that has been happening recently in the New Jersey Legislature.

“The fact that this bill is back after being vetoed by Governor Corzine, the developers losing it court, and the EPA coming out against it, just shows you the power of special interests in New Jersey,” Tittel said.

The Legislators who have been involved in trying to promote overdevelopment and destroy our waterways are either developers themselves, work for developers, or are closely aligned with developers. The builders and developers have not shown any scientific evidence, data, or information to prove why these rules shouldn’t go forward. This is a direct threat to our health and safety by these special interests. This is government for special interests by special interests.

A2070 extends for three years the DEP implementation of the Water Quality Management Planning Rules that are more than 13 years in the making. The bill hands authority of water quality planning over to the State Planning Commission, which will ultimately result in a weakening or pull back of the current rules.

The Water Quality Management Planning Rules are vital to the health of our drinking water and were considered a major step forward in the protection of New Jersey’s water supply. They would require that proper environmental analysis and planning be done prior to granting a sewer extension. These rules would also keep sewers out of environmentally sensitive areas and make sure there is enough water for the developments to go forward. The rules, for the first time, would regulate development on septics, which is the major source of groundwater pollution in rural parts of New Jersey. Senate Legislative Oversight Committee hearings on these rules found that they are consistent with state laws and are not considered intrusive in their implementation.

The bill would allow for the State Planning Commission to oversee water quality management, resulting in a weakening or pull back of the current rules. The State Planning Commission is controlled by developers and has no expertise in the protection of water supplies. We believe giving the State Planning Commission the ability to change the rules is a violation of the Federal Clean Water Act, the New Jersey Clean Water Act, the Water Quality Planning Act, and the Pollution Control Act.

Under the Water Quality Planning Rules, up to 300,000 acres of environmentally-sensitive land were removed from sewer service areas, which are locations that can be sewered and developed in high densities.

These lands were removed because they consisted of high-value environmental resources, such as habitats for threatened and endangered species, Category One streams, contiguous forests, steep slope, aquifer recharge and many drained into drinking water supply intakes or reservoirs. When many of these sites were originally put into sewer service areas back in the 1960s, there was no environmental analysis done and often there wasn’t even enough water in the area for the projects. In many areas that were originally slated for sewers, the sewers were never created because they either ran out money or feared the pollution and overdevelopment that they would bring.

The goal of the Water Quality Management Planning Rules was to not only to protect environmentally sensitive areas, but to also focus appropriate growth back into urban areas. This would revitalize urban areas and save taxpayer dollars by avoiding wasteful spending on expensive infrastructure in environmentally-sensitive areas.

Seventy-seven percent of New Jersey’s waterways do not meet all uses – drinking, swimming, and fishing – under the Clean Water Act. By grandfathering in old sewer service areas, we will be pushing the sprawl line out into environmentally sensitive areas and undermining uses. This legislation will also cost the taxpayers millions because of upgrades and construction of new water treatment facilities. Because of development on the Passaic River, the Passaic Valley Water Commission recently had to build a $200 million facility. The North Jersey District Water Supply Commission study done a few years ago says that unless we control sprawl and overdevelopment, New Jersey taxpayers will spend $50 billion on new water treatment facilities over the next 40 years.

If A2070 passes, New Jersey will not only experience more sprawl and water pollution as overdevelopment threatens our water quality but residents will be subjected to health impacts from drinking polluted water. There will also be more flooding down stream, threatening communities and their economies. Clean water is essential to our economic vitality, as New Jersey’s three largest industries – food processing, pharmaceutical and tourism – depend on it.

“The Legislature is threatening not only our water supply, but putting federal Stimulus dollars at risk. If A2070 passes, New Jersey will be in violation of its agreement with the Federal Government,” Tittel said. “New Jersey received more than $200 million in Stimulus money to complete water projects. If the Legislature approves this rule, we could loose that money.”

Kara Seymour, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618

609.656.7612

(f) 609.656.7618

<http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org

Received on 2010-02-08 13:45:26

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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