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Wanaque Withdrawal Permit Puts Water at Risk

Date : Tue, 02 Jul 2013 12:36:13 -0400

For Immediate Release

July 2, 2013

Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Wanaque Withdrawal Permit Puts Water at Risk

The DEP has approved a proposal to take millions more gallons of water out of the Wanaque Reservoir each day.Last year the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission put forth a plan to increase the "safe yield" of the largest reservoir system in the state, and now the DEP is allowing them to move ahead.Previously 173 million gallons per day (MGD) could be taken out but now that will increase to 190 MGD.This raises serious concerns for our water quality and could impact the drinking water supply for over 2 million people.In May 2012, thirteen organizations joined Sierra Club in submitting comments to the DEP opposing the increase including Delaware Riverkeeper Network, New Jersey Environmental Federation, and Pequannock River Coalition.

"DEP did not do their job, they rubberstamped a bad proposal.Calling it an increase in the safe yield is an oxymoron. It is really a dangerous game of manipulating our reservoir and threatening our water supply with more pollution.Increasing the yield on paper does not mean that it is actually feasible without serious impacts to water quality and the water supply.This is about political science, not real science," said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club. "There is nothing safe, this is a dangerous precedent."

Organizations opposing the plan contend DEP has not provided any data to prove that their plan to increase the "safe yield" is in fact safe and has not demonstrated that the reservoir can safely yield the proposed increased volume without harming other uses, water quality, and habitat.

The New Jersey Water Supply Master Plan has not been updated since 1995, making it impossible to determine all the consequences this proposal will have on the water supply.The plan does not include developments built since the last update that still rely on the reservoir for drinking water.Taking more water from the system could not only impact the Reservoir but also interconnected water bodies like the Ramapo, Passaic, and Pompton Rivers by creating drought/ low flow conditions and deteriorating water quality.

"Just saying you have more water to take does not mean it is so.All the science points to there being less water in our streams than 20-30 years ago.What is even more disturbing is the failure to update the 1995 Water Supply Master Plan and recalculate our safe yields state wide," said Jeff Tittel."One of the key water supply rivers is the Ramapo and the Ramapo has seen a 10 year drought or low flow just about every other year so how can there be more water in the basin” Maybe the reason they are delaying the Water Supply Master Plan is so they can keep taking more water without having to do any kind of analysis."

Additional pumping into the Reservoir could be required from the Pompton and lower Passaic Riversby taking more water out of the Reservoir.The more water you take from the reservoir, the more you will have to pump back in from the lower Passaic.Pollution from downstream would be pumped back into our reservoirs, potentially increasing the concentration of pollutants in the Passaic and the Reservoir.This will impact aquatic life, micro invertebrates and fish. Industrial discharges and heavy metals could potentially enter the Reservoir system from the Passaic River when the pumping station is used. Pumping dirty water into the Wanaque Reservoir will add to filtration and electrical costs for consumers.The Wanaque Reservoir is a Category One water body and pumping in more water from impaired water bodies violates the anti-degradation criteria of that reservoir.

"By taking out all this extra water the discharges downstream will not have as much water to dilute their outflow creating a lower and dirtier river, which could be pumped back up to the Reservoir.This creates a vicious downward spiral of water quality," said Jeff Tittel."It is becoming even more evident in the Passaic Basin you can have a beer on a Friday night and enjoy it in your coffee the next morning."

Taking more water from the Reservoir will lead to more development, loss of open space and loss of recharge to groundwater and streams. This increased development will mean more flooding. Increasing the safe yield will encourage more development and sprawl in certain areas, potentially impacting water quality with more point and non-point pollution.By allowing for more development in the Highlands you will lose the dilution you need to make up for existing pollution.If you begin pumping up dirty water and losing dilution, there is going to be a multiplying effect of dramatically degraded water quality in the Wanaque Reservoir.

This will impact water supply intakes further downstream and wastewater discharges by increasing the concentration of pollutants and lowering water levels in the river, making the water dirtier.In 1999, at Little Falls the Passaic River was running at over 10 milligrams per liter of nitrates, higher than the Safe Drinking Water Act standard.Since nitrates cannot be diluted, this threatened our water supply intakes. Now there will be less water in the Passaic River during dry periods and even higher levels of pollutants.This could also dramatically reduce the ability to assimilate pollutants for discharges.Also in 1999, the Wanaque Reservoir filters were being clogged by algae from pumping dirty water in, undermining the ability of the reservoir to be able to deliver clean water during a drought.

"This will rob downstream water supply intakes," said Jeff Tittel.

Increasing the safe yield will also impact the DEP's ability to implement a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Passaic River. A TMDL is a tool under the Clean Water Act to clean up the Passaic River by reducing the amount of pollutants entering the waterway.Increasing the yield will reduce the flows in the River, which will increase the concentration of pollutants.By withdrawing more water it will change and undermine the entire TMDL program by adding more pollution

Governor Christie has been weakening protections in the watershed and this proposal will only make the water dirtier.Governor Christie has been weakening protections for the Highlands region by appointing individuals to the Highlands Council that have spoken out publically against Highlands protections and have challenged the science behind the Regional Master Plan.The Governor orchestrating the ouster of the Council's Executive Director and installed a Morris County Freeholder with no planning or natural resource management experience as a replacement.The Governor's State Strategic Plan turns the Highlands Planning Area into a growth area and calls for more sewers there.

The DEP has been holding closed door meetings to rewrite and weaken some of our most important water quality rules. The Stormwater Management regulations are being rewritten to weaken protections for headwaters, 300 foot buffers and recharge areas.The nitrate dilution model is being weakened to add more development in environmentally sensitive areas.The models are an important tool in protecting ground water and streams from pollution.The buffers and fill limitations in the Flood Hazard Area rules are being rolled back.

"Basically we are creating a water budget that is completely out of balance," said Jeff Tittel."One day when you turn on the tap nothing will come out or what comes out is so dirty you do not want to drink it- that is the consequence of these failed policies and taking water when you don't have it."

DEP response to comment and staff reports can be found at www.nj.govdep/watersupplya_allocat.html

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2013-07-02 09:36:13

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