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DEP Rolling Back Water Quality Protections, Adding Sensitive Areas to Sewer Service

Date : Fri, 20 Jul 2012 11:38:51 -0400

Sensitive Areas to Sewer Service

For Immediate Release

July 17, 2012

Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

DEP Rolling Back Water Protections

The DEP is using a two year delay for approvals of county sewer service maps as an excuse to weaken the county plans and add more environmentally sensitive areas back into sewer service. The DEP is patting itself on the back that the delay and weakenings have brought all the counties in, but most counties have already submitted plans based on the 2008 rules that protect sensitive areas from future sprawl and overdevelopment, and this delay is being used to change those plans and force more growth in sensitive areas.The county plans determine where sewer lines can go, which dictates future growth.The delay is being used by the DEP to add up to 100,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands back into the sewer service areas after 300,000 environmentally sensitive acres were removed under the 2008 Water Quality Management Regulations.

"The DEP is siding with the builders and weakening planning to protect our water quality.Rolling back these rules and allowing sprawl in environmentally sensitive areas jeopardizes our water quality, the environment, and public health.There is no threat more devastating to our families than the threat from having polluted water supplies,"
said NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

"DEP has said there was a problem with the Water Qulaity Planning Rules- they are the problem siding with the builders over clean water.DEP said there was a delay in getting the rules in place- they caused the delay so they could add more environmentally sensitive land to be paved over.The DEP is not the solution, they are for more pollution,"
continued Jeff.

The DEP is now proposing to only remove 200,000 acres from sewer service, most of which is preserved open space and wetlands.They are adding 100,000 acres back into sewer service areas that were taken out under the 2008 rules.That development could add 1.5 million people plus lots of industrial and commercial development, paving over New Jersey.In the 2008 rule there was 375,000 environmentally sensitive acres with 75,000 acres staying in sewer service because of the 25 acre loophole.Almost half of the environmentally sensitive lands are back in sewer service under the DEP's changes. Staff recommended between 230,000 and 250, 000 acres be taken out, but DEP is only taken out 200,000 acres. DEP is going against their own science and the important resources at these sites.Paving over New Jersey will add more flooding and pollution, going against science and the environment.

"This is the biggest attack on clean water in 20 years. Adding over 100,000 acres into sewer service areas will mean more flooding, more pollution and loss of open space.This goes against the DEP's own science and we do not even know if there is enough water to support all this development.This is the DEP throwing away the Clean Water Act for developers and polluters," said Jeff Tittel.

Counties have been submitting plans under the more protective 2008 regulations. DEP has been using the delay to add sewer services areas back onto the map after being removed by the counties for sensitive features.This is being done in Monmouth County around the Swimming River Reservoir and in Holmdel, in portions of the Sourland Mountains, and in parts of Hunterdon County along the Rt 78 corridor.

This delay 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.We are opening up 35,000 environmentally sensitive acres around Barnegat Bay, enough to double the population of Ocean County, to sprawl development, ultimately destroying Barnegat Bay.

The law allowing for this delay was opposed by the EPA.This was in part due to a concern the bill will directly result in violations of the Clean Water Act.The Sierra Club will be petitioning the EPA to remove delegation for Water Quality Planning from New Jersey and have direct federal oversight on New Jersey's 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.

Removing the 300,000 environmentally sensitive acres from sewer service areas would keep a significant amount of pollution out of our waterways.A report by Princeton Hydro found the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that would be added to waterways if this land is developed 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.Barnegat Bay would be the hardest hit by the resulting increased pollution, as 35,000 critical acres could be paved over, destroying the Bay.Another report found the bill would cost residents and businesses between $217 and $435 million in additional water treatment costs annually.

"The DEP rollbacks affects us not only at our faucets but at our wallets.Not only will we have more pollution in our waterways but it will cost us more to filter those pollutants out of our drinking water, if we can," said Jeff Tittel.

The DEP will also be able to allow 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.

There are plenty of other areas for New Jersey to grow without opening up additional environmentally sensitive lands.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.The weakening of these rules 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.

"There are plenty of projects proposed in sewer service areas that are not moving forward because of the economy.This 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.

"The DEP rollbacks will mean more pollution, loss of more open space and more flooding.Governor Christie has wiped out years of progress in cleaning up and protecting our waterways by gutting these regulations,"
said Jeff Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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