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Water Quality Worsening in New Jersey

Date : Wed, 11 Apr 2012 14:48:45 -0400

/For Immediate Release/
April 03, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

*Water Quality Worsening in New Jersey*

** The EPA has released a new tool to come up with ways to protect our watersheds but instead New Jersey's policies are making our waters more polluted.The EPA's "Healthy Watersheds" manual helps communities identify and better protect our waterways.Yet Governor Christie continues to roll back environmental protections that put our drinking water supplies and waterways at risk.According to the EPA, only 23 of our 952 waterways are deemed healthy.The Flat Brook in Sussex County is the only waterway in the state that meets all uses under the federal Clean Water Act, drinking, swimming, and fishing.While we see our water quality worsening the Christie administration is holding closed door meetings with special interests to gut environmental regulations, filling top positions at DEP with political buddies, and attempting to dismantle protections for the Highlands region.A shocking number of our waterways are at risk from contamination and now is not the time for regulatory rollbacks.

"Water is a precious resource constantly under the threat of increasing pollution and diminishing sources.Under the policies of Governor Christie our water quality will continue to worsen," *said Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club*. "Our waterways are becoming threatened by more pollutants as political appointments are placed in charge of their protection instead of experts." The DEP has been holding "stakeholder" meetings where important environmental regulations are being rewritten by special interests.The Sierra Club is concerned that this process will be used to weaken environmental standards and pull down rules that are important to the protection of public health and safety. These are the rules that are being weakened in stakeholder meetings:

 * *Stormwater Management Regulations* New Jersey has one of the most protective standards in the country with the 2004 rules.The Christie administration is rewriting the stormwater management rules behind closed doors weakening protections for headwaters, 300 foot buffers and recharge areas. They are trying to get rid of non-structural methods to clean up stormwater.Instead they want to go back to the days of detention basins and large pipes, which do nothing for water quality.They are selling out our waterways to developers.

 * *Nitrate Dilution Model * Nitrate dilution models are an important tool in protecting ground water and streams from pollution.Nitrate is a water soluble chemical that cannot be removed from water.It is critical not only for ecological health but protection of public health.Too much nitrate in water impacts the health of people with autoimmune deficiencies and cancer and cause blue baby syndrome in pregnant women.It has been one of the basic tools used to protect both water quality and land use.It has been upheld in court in protecting areas in the Highlands and Pinelands and setting basic zoning densities in communities throughout New Jersey.The administration wants to weaken the models and standards used and add more development in environmentally sensitive areas.But by adding more people you are threatening public health and the environment. One-third of all private wells in New Jersey show impacts from nitrate pollution caused by overdevelopment on septics, according to the Private Well Testing Act results.

 * *Flood Hazard Area Rules * The Flood Hazard Area rules are also being rewritten behind closed doors and we are concerned the protections that keep people out of harm's way will be weakened.The rules currently have protections for high quality waterways.Category one streams have a 300 foot buffer and there are 150 foot buffers for threatened and endangered species habitat.We believe they are going to rollback these buffers.We are also concerned they will allow more fill in flood plains and flood prone areas.Currently there is a zero net fill requirement so developers cannot add more fill material to increase flooding.The DEP is also considering adding more general permits to make getting a permit easier.There is nothing in the rules about water quality so by weakening the stormwater management rules and these regulations, it is a double hit for water pollution and flooding.

 * *Water Quality Management Planning (WQMP) Rules* The administration is trying to further weaken the WQMP rules in addition to the roll back at the Legislature.The majority of counties have completed and submitted their plans, but the DEP is delaying their implementation so they can rewrite the rules to force more development and add more sewers in environmentally sensitive areas.Commissioner Martin has said they are looking at protecting 250,000 acres, already down 50,000 from the original goal of 300,000 environmentally sensitive acres.Under the delay we fear more sensitive land will be developed or added back into sewer service areas for future growth.This will have serious impacts on water quality on the removed acreage includes lands above water supply intakes, important groundwater recharge areas, and headwaters to drinking supply waterways.

 * *New Jersey's Water Supply Master Plan* The Plan has not been updated since 1995 and updates are due every five years.The Christie administration is dragging its feet because the update will show New Jersey has a very serious water supply problem.There are parts of the state that are running out of water, being impacted by salt water intrusion or pollution, or are too polluted in the summer to take water.This plan is important because it the foundation for other regulations that protect our drinking water.

"While our water continues to get dirtier the progress we made is being weakened by the Christie administration," *said Jeff Tittel*. We are still waiting for the study on the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer in the Pinelands.That study was supposed to be completed in 2005.

"These meetings are an excuse to weaken environmental protections and turn New Jersey over to the special interests," *said Jeff Tittel*. "Weakening important rules and standards will not only impact our environment and our water, but will also lead to more sprawl and more pollution, hurting New Jersey's economy." All these weakening will make conditions in the Barnegat Bay worse.The Governor's 10 Point Plan does not do much since it does not address land use and these rollbacks will make it worse. In February, Michele Siekerka was appointed Assistant Commissioner of Water Resource Management.Siekerka oversees water and sewer permitting as well as water supply decision-making.She is currently serving on the board of a Bank previously worked for the Mercer Chamber of Commerce.

"New Jersey's waterways are in serious trouble.Instead of strengthening water programs to ensure we have plentiful drinking water for future generations, the Christie administration is doing the opposite.Governor Christie is putting our water supplies at risk, promoting more sprawl and pollution and the loss of more open space," *said Jeff Tittel*."Is this glass half empty or half full?With the Christie administration it doesn't matter because you could drink what is in it anyway." Link to Healthy Watersheds Manual: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/watershed/hw_techdocument.cfm

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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Received on 2012-04-11 11:48:45

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tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
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