DEP’s Proposed Water Rule Means More Dirty Water
The Department of Environmental Protection NJ Department of Environmental Protection is proposing amendments, repeals, and new rules to the Stormwater Management rules, N.J.A.C. 7:8. This is the first rule under the DEP have proposed under the Murphy Administration. A public hearing on the proposal is today, Tuesday January 8, 2019 at 1:00 pm at the Department of Environmental Protection. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club released the following statement:
“DEP’s proposed rule fails to adequately protect New Jersey from flooding and non-point pollution. These rules are a step backwards, they do not deal with climate change, more frequent flooding, combined sewer overflows, and would make it easier to build pipelines. It allows for green infrastructure however it says to the maximum extension practice which is a loophole big enough to fit a bulldozer through. The biggest problem with this rule is that it continues Christie’s rollbacks on wetlands, flood hazard, and stormwater.
“The rule calls for green infrastructure but keeps the current standards in place that do not work. It also does not effectively monitor the green infrastructure. The rules exempt existing development, they do not require retrofitting of stormwater retention and detention basin systems. It does not require enough recharge or to break up impervious cover to absorb more water. Instead, we should be treating stormwater through natural filtration into sub soils followed by vegetation. The proposed rule does not restore the 300-foot buffers, SWARPA, or calls for revegetating stream buffers or riparian corridors as a way of dealing with non-point pollution.
“DEP’s stormwater rule is seriously flawed and does not change the basic standard. The rule treats impervious cover with automobiles different with other types of impervious cover, which we believe is wrong. It does not deal with compacted soils which in parts of New Jersey are like of impervious cover. The rule also does not include any bonding required for infrastructure in case the system fails, it also does not require maintenance or monitoring.
“The model is based on dealing 100-year storm events that we are having every year. The 100-yr storm model does not work because of climate change and frequency of intense storms, we are also getting a lot more rain. Modelers are looking at 250 year and 500 year storms. This means if you leave along the Passaic or the Raritan River, you’re going to need snorkels. Instead of moving us forward it keeps the status quo.
“Existing development is exempted from the stormwater rule, which is already the largest source of non-pollution in our state. This means a box store being built on a former shopping center or a high rise in New Brunswick will be exempted. Roofs and sidewalks are also not included under the rules, even though they contribute to extra pollution.
“Combined sewer overflow is a major problem in New Jersey, but the rule does not really address it. CSOs are a health hazard, especially when concerned with sea level rise. The rule does not require any restrictions on holding back on water on ground or near properties. It also has no language that would clean up nitrogen and phosphorous in our water. Dilapidated storm water systems exacerbate the problem by increasing the water in combined sewers and we need funding to reduce the amount of water in sewers during major storm events. Only 5% of streams in New Jersey meet standards for being fishable, swimmable, and drinkable, mostly because of non-point solution. 65% of our streams are impacted by phosphorus. We have to retrofit urban areas for stormwater management. Things like green roofs, wet gardens can help and prevent combined sewer overflow however these methods are exempted because the rule exempts redevelopment.
“These rules do not reverse Christie’s rollbacks on stormwater, buffers, or wetlands. They still give preference for engineered controls like basins and outfall structures that can cause more erosion. DEP’s new Stormwater Management rule does not replace the nonstructural point system and requires most of BMP. Most of BMPs only work 50% of the time in ultimate situations. They do not work in areas with steep slopes or high groundwater. The rules do not deal with total suspended solids and do not have nutrient limits for nitrogen or phosphorus. They need to have those requirements in order to do TMDL.
“Non- point pollution is the biggest source of water pollution in New Jersey. This rule does not change the basic standard of the amount of water that can be adsorbed into the ground or cleanup of non-point pollution. It still has the same standards that do not work in New Jersey in the last 40 years. That is our largest source of pollution mostly because of runoff. We are seeing Barnegat Bay dying because of non point pollution and runoff. Dissolved oxygen levels are dropping due to high levels of nutrients from stormwater, resulting in algae blooms. We have to address the stormwater management and nonpoint source pollution issues in the Bay otherwise we are going to turn the Barnegat Bay into the state’s largest stormwater detention basin as the Bay continues to die.
“DEP is just taking the broken current system and adding some green amendments. This is really green cover for a rule that will cause more flooding and water pollution. The rule has a few positives but overall does nothing to change the status quo of pointless non-pollution. It also does not deal or address storm impacts from pipelines or industrial compressor stations. The biggest source of pollution we face is nonpoint pollution and we need to retrofit our stormwater basins to protect our waterways, while revitalizing our waterfront neighborhoods and communities. DEP’s first rule is still a Christie rule that also has nothing to do with climate change, sea level rise, and will add just add more flooding. This rule just create more pointless non-point pollution,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.