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Legislature Risks Clean Drinking Water to Appease Developers

Date : Tue, 09 Jan 2012 17:25:08 -0500

The bill has passed both houses and is waiting for concurrence in the Senate which will happen later tonight For Immediate Release
January 9, 2011 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

*Legislature Risks Clean Drinking Water to Appease Developers * The full Senate and Assembly approved dangerous legislation that would delay and circumvent critical protections for water quality.*A4335/S3156 *which delays the implementation of the state's Water Quality Management Planning rules for up to two years will now go to Governor Christie's desk.Although some changes to the legislation were made based on environmental concerns, two of the most dangerous sections remain in place: Sewer service extensions will be allowed in areas without treatment capacity and approvals can move forward with only partial wastewater management plans in place.These were the two components of the bill the EPA had the biggest concern with and the Sierra Club will be petitioning the EPA to remove delegation for Water Quality Planning from New Jersey and have federal direct oversight on New Jersey water programs restored.Because this bill violates the Clean Water Act, the EPA not only has the authority to remove delegation and permitting from the state of New Jersey when it comes to water, they can also block millions in grants for infrastructure.

"Today the Legislature put taking care of special interests before protecting the drinking water for New Jersey residents.This legislation was passed at the expense of water quality, the environment, and public health.There is no threat more devastating to our families than the threat from having polluted water supplies.This legislation directly threatens surface and groundwater water supplies for the people of New Jersey," *said* *NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel*. A report released on Thursday by a Coalition of leading environmental groups found that the pollution resulting from this bill would significantly impact our waterways and drinking water supplies.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.Another report found the bill would cost residents and businesses between $217 and $435 million in additional water treatment costs annually. These rules were supposed to be implemented in April of this year after significant prior delays.Delaying the rules would keep 300,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land open to sewer service.Barnegat Bay would be the hardest hit by the resulting increased pollution, as 35,000 critical acres could be paved over, destroying the Bay. Despite outcry by the EPA and environmental groups, the bill includes a loophole to allow for new sewer service in areas that do not have capacity to treat wastewater at existing treatment facilities.This provision could extend sewers into new parcels beyond the 300,000 environmentally sensitive acres without environmental analysis or to areas without sewer plants or plants that do not have capacity to treat the waste.Compliance with the Clean Water Act would be jeopardized as this will cause greater problems with combined sewer overflows, decrease water quality, and could create requests for package treatment plants.This legislation would jeopardize TMDLs on Barnegat Bay and the Raritan and Passaic Rivers because of all the increased pollution. The bill would also remove requirements to clean up groundwater pollution.Counties will no longer be required to submit septic density standards to regulate growth in more rural areas.Under the bill, they could submit only the sewer service area portion of their wastewater management plan and still receive approval from the DEP. 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. There are plenty of other areas for New Jersey to grow without opening up the 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

"There are plenty of projects proposed in sewer service areas that are not moving forward because of the economy.This bill is not about jobs, it's about taking care of polluters and special interests," *said Jeff Tittel*.

__ Environmental advocates have been working for over 15 years to get these regulations in place.In 1988, the EPA asked New Jersey to roll back sewer service areas by 1994 and provided the state with $3 million in grant funding to update the plans. In 2009, New Jersey received more than $1.6 million from the EPA for these plans.New Jersey received millions to implement these rules and this delay would violate those agreements. We have past that deadline for counties to submit wastewater management plans and now the builders and the Christie administration have turned to the Legislature to do their dirty work.

"This was supposed to go into effect in 2009 but now has been delayed beyond 2015.This will continue the paving over of our open spaces, the polluting of our water ways, and the drying of our aquifers," *said Tittel.* The top concerns the Sierra Club has with the legislation:

- Allows 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

- Delays 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. This legislation means more pollution, loss of more open space and more flooding.This legislation undoes years of progress in cleaning up and protecting our waterways," *said* *Jeff Tittel*.

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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Received on 2012-01-09 14:25:08

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
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