|Communities Make Recommendations for Multi-Billion Dollar Plans to Stop Sewage Overflows
Community groups submit recommendations to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on the combined sewer overflow Long Term Control Plans.
TRENTON, 2021 – The Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers campaign, a coalition of community organizations from towns with combined sewer systems, is advocating for the Long Term Control Plans developed by municipal and utility permit holders to include equitable solutions to combined sewer overflows (CSOs). Twenty-four municipal and utility permit holders submitted combined sewer overflow Long Term Control Plans to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) on October 1, 2020, kicking off a four-month comment period during which many community groups, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders weighed in on the plans, including the Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers campaign and its partners.
“These plans represent billions of public infrastructure dollars,” said Nicole Miller, principal, MnM Consulting and co-chair, NewarkDIG. “Our residents and business owners deserve the maximum benefit from each dollar spent. We hope NJDEP will take our concerns into consideration when preparing responses to the permit holders.”
“We are hopeful that the NJDEP’s commitment to environmental justice will be reflected in their review of these plans and that the final Long Term Control Plans will promote equity in affordability and in the implementation of solutions to sewage overflows,” said Mo Kinberg, New Jersey Future community outreach manager.
“The Clean Water Act is intended to ensure that our nation’s waters no matter where you live, color of your skin, or economic situation are free of sewage and toxins with the ultimate goal of zero pollution discharge over time,” stated Amy Goldsmith, NJ state director, Clean Water Action. “Approving, funding, and enforcing the best Long Term Control Plans possible is key to ensuring water justice for all.”
The plans detail large wastewater infrastructure projects that will impact communities for decades and will be paid for primarily by taxpayers. Comments by the coalition focus on water quality, environmental justice, green infrastructure, public participation and climate change. “We are elated to see these plans move forward after over five years of community input and discussion,” stated Drew Curtis, Ironbound Community Corporation. “We want to see these plans address many of the issues facing environmental justice communities like Newark, such as abating stormwater flooding and increased green infrastructure. And, we want to see the plans paid for in an equitable manner. Newark, as the host community for PVSC, already bears the brunt of the negative impacts from the plant; other, more affluent communities within the PVSC service area should pick up more of the financial costs of these plans.”
“There has been an enormous effort by the CSO permit holders and NJDEP over the last five years to get us to this critical point of addressing CSOs through the adoption of the Long Term Control Plans,” stated Rosana Da Silva, New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program and technical advisory board member to the campaign. “These plans specifically focus on the reduction of CSOs. Implementation will improve water quality in the Estuary. But this process is also an opportunity for stakeholders, including ratepayers and local government officials, to envision the future of their communities and how they can best benefit from cleaner waterways.”
The coalition is asking the NJDEP and permit holders for innovative solutions that put the health and wellbeing of the residents of these communities first. “It is time to address the impacts of CSOs with a sense of urgency,” stated Greg Remaud, NY/NJ Baykeeper. “Our urban communities have suffered the public health and environmental insult of raw sewage flowing freely into their streets and waterways after it rains for far too long. This will require the leadership and cooperation on the local, state and federal level that has yet to emerge.”
What more local advocates are saying:
“As a resident of the South Ward of Newark and an environmental justice organizer, it is extremely important that residents have meaningful participation in the Long Term Control Plans and their voices are heard in their communities’ plan,” stated Kim Gaddy, director, South Ward Environmental Alliance.
“We see what happens during a ‘normal’ rainfall event in Camden: raw sewage floods the streets and residential homes. Residents should be the first priority. We must develop an equitable public outreach and engagement plan to ensure ALL residents have a voice and are heard.“—Shaniqua Biles, Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers Advisory Board member and Camden resident.
“Bayonne’s Long Term Control Plan is inherently inequitable in its financing, lacking in public input and nearly devoid of green infrastructure. Bayonne inexplicably failed to consider more equitable means of funding for this project, resulting in an unconscionable economic plan that will exacerbate income inequality and reward polluters.”—Jill Pustorino, Morris Park Neighborhood Association
“I find it very disturbing to have to wait until 2040 to address some of the worst flooding in Paterson. The flooding that is coming into our homes and cars has raw sewage in it, which creates health issues.”—Martha Arencibia, Paterson Green Team Chair
“There is an urgent opportunity for Jersey City to reduce costs of its Long Term Control Plan by investing in green infrastructure,” stated Debra Italiano, founder, Sustainable Jersey City. “Grey infrastructure costs could be brought down by prioritizing green infrastructure first. The City of Jersey City indicated it would consider participation in a Regional Plan if ‘adaptive remedies’ were available in the agreement, like a green infrastructure first strategy—municipal alignment around this focus is needed.”
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