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New Report: Dirty Water Bill Hurts NJ Waterways

Date : Mon, 5 Jan 2012 16:17:27 -0500

For Immediate Release
January 5, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

New Report: Dirty Water Bill Hurts NJ Waterways

Water quality would deteriorate substantially under bill A4335/S3156 being considered in the New Jersey Legislature. The state's water quality management planning rules would be delayed and undercut by the legislation, leaving 300,000 environmentally sensitive acres open to sewer service. A report by Princeton Hydro found that if those critical lands are developed our waterways and drinking water supplies will suffer as a result. The amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that would be added to waterways is the equivalent of dumping 23,000 bags of fertilizer in the water each year. The increase in suspended solids is comparable to 225,000 dump truck loads in our streams, lakes, and bays.

"This is the kind of scientific work the Legislature should be doing before delaying and changing our water quality rules so that the public and our legislators know what the impacts will be," said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club. "This bill sells out New Jersey's water supply and waterways by taking the side of developers and special interests over clean water and our environment."

This legislation would push the sprawl line 10 miles further west in Northern New Jersey and 5-10 miles further east in the Coastal Area. It will lead to more flooding on the Passaic and Raritan Rivers. The Delaware Bay Shore will be destroyed through overdevelopment. This region is not only one of the last underdeveloped areas in the state, but, more importantly, is an internationally recognized flyover for thousands of bird species.

There are plenty of other areas for New Jersey to grow without opening up these 300,000 sensitive acres. 75,000 acres are open to development under a loophole for parcels under 25 acres and there are some 300,000 vacant acres in existing sewer service areas. We have hundreds of thousands of acres that are in need of redevelopment or are underdeveloped including brownfields and deserted strip malls. This legislation is about sprawl and destroying New Jersey's last remaining open spaces. We currently have approvals in existing sewer service areas that are not being built. This legislation is not about jobs, it is about greed

Under Oregon's growth management plan, the state plans on growing by half a million people and creating half a million jobs on 35,000 vacant areas in sewer service areas. We have almost ten times that amount in existing sewer service areas that are not environmentally sensitive. We have plenty of vacant land in existing sewer areas and loopholes to continue to grow.

"This bill directly threatens New Jersey's water supplies by putting pollution into those sources. In addition to more nutrient pollution, we will see increases in heavy metals and other pollutants, threatening our drinking water," said Jeff Tittel.

This legislation will add more pollution and development around critical drinking water supplies. The Oradell, Spruce Run, and Round Valley Reservoirs will all be impacted. Major water supply intakes on the Raritan and Passaic Rivers will suffer from more pollution, impacting the Wanaque Reservoir. Pollution will increase in the Manasquan and Shark River Rivers and the Swimming River, Manasquan, and Brick Reservoirs. The legislation would open up 35,000 environmentally sensitive acres around Barnegat Bay, enough to double the population of Ocean County, to sprawl development, ultimately destroying Barnegat Bay.

"Given all the other problems Barnegat Bay faces, if we allow for sprawl and overdevelopment to destroy another 35,000 acres around the Bay that additional pollution will mean we cannot clean up the Bay and the Bay will die," said Jeff Tittel.

Putting 300,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land back in sewer service areas will destroy some of the last and most important areas of open space in New Jersey, including the Highlands and Pinelands. These lands were removed due to critical resources such as threatened and endangered species habitats, steep slopes, and aquifer recharge areas. Given the six major floods we have had in last two years, adding that much more development above areas that have seen chronic flooding will only make the problem worse. Seventy-seven percent of New Jersey's waterways do not meet all uses - drinking, swimming, and fishing - under the Clean Water Act and keeping the old sewer service areas in place will degrade our water quality further.

"This legislation is a dirty deal for dirty water," said Jeff Tittel. "This bill, in its current form, is the clearest example of special interest legislation that is proposed to take care of developers and polluters at the expense of water quality and public health. There is no threat more devastating to our families than the threat from having polluted water supplies."

This bill needs to be amended because as currently written it would:

- Allow applicants to submit site specific amendments to sewer service areas that the DEP will be under a deadline to review. Amendments could be submitted before county plans are finalized so new sewer service would be granted based on older mapping, potentially opening up environmentally sensitive areas to new development. There would be no public hearing or public comment period on these amendments.

 

- Developments could be added to sewer service areas even if there isn't treatment capacity

- Delay implementation of county water quality management plans for 6 months from enactment of the bill. However counties will be able to further delay septic standards as DEP will allow counties to only submit sewer service plans. The Private Well Testing Act shows that one third of houses with well and septic on the property fail because they show signs of pollution.

-Under this bill the DEP can grant amendments and hook ups if the county only submits a partial plan to DEP. The could give out permits that would violate clean water laws

-Allows for developments in areas that do not have the water availability to service the additional structures. Also allows for development in areas that have combined sewer overflow problems and additional hook ups would make the problem worse

- Takes away authority and undermines wastewater management planning in the Highlands and Pinelands regions

"Laws have consequences and this law will have tremendous negative impacts on New Jersey's drinking water and water supply. This is the biggest attack on clean water by the New Jersey Legislature in years. If this legislation passes it will mean more pollution, loss of more open space and more flooding. This legislation will undo years of progress in cleaning up and protecting our waterways," said Jeff Tittel.

Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator NJ Sierra Club 145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 609.656.7612 (f) 609.656.7618 Received on 2012-01-05 13:17:27

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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