Murphy Signs Stormwater Utility Bill- Good Step Forward

Murphy Signs Stormwater Utility Bill- Good Step Forward

 

Today Governor Murphy signed S1073(Smith) into law. The law will authorize municipalities, counties, and certain authorities to establish stormwater utilities. The bill also requires the DEP to create a stormwater utility guidance manual to provide guidance to municipalities, counties, and authorities seeking to establish stormwater utilities.

“In an important step forward towards cleaning up our waterways and reduce flooding, Governor Murphy has signed S1703(Smith) into law. Stormwater is a very serious problem that impacts our waterways and affects public health. Most of our water is polluted because of stormwater. This law allows towns to voluntarily adopt a funding mechanism to establish stormwater utilities. The bill will It will make polluters who don’t want to clean up their fair share of pollution too,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We thank Governor Murphy for standing up for clean water and signing this bill however he has a lot more work to do to reduce flooding and non-point pollution from stormwater runoff.”

Under the bill, a county, municipality, or authority (local unit) that establishes a stormwater utility is authorized to charge and collect reasonable fees and other charges to recover the stormwater utility’s costs for stormwater management.  These fees and other charges are to be collected from the owner or occupant of any real property from which originates stormwater runoff which enters the stormwater management system or the waters of the State.

“This law is not a rain tax and will not affect homes. This law is telling developers building new commercial development and existing large- scale development that they have to pay to clean up the pollution problems they have created. The Stormwater Utility law is a good start to help us reduce those problems and we need to continue to do more to clean up our combined sewer overflow because they are a health hazard,” said Tittel.

During periods of heavy rainfall the wastewater volume in a combined sewer system can exceed the capacity of the sewer system or treatment plant. Consequently, combined sewer systems are designed to overflow occasionally and discharge excess wastewater directly to nearby streams, rivers, or other water bodies. 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.

“There are serious health problems every time it rains because of CSOs and raw sewage. We need to do more to clean up our combined sewer overflow because they are a health hazard, especially when concerned with sea level rise.  Raw or impartially treated sewage runs during major storms are a huge concern. This could expose communities and the environment to serious contamination,” said Tittel. 

Most of the stormwater control systems we have are broken or do not work, contributing to flooding and pollution. Combined sewer overflow undermines the revitalization of our cities and older towns because no one wants to invest in areas that are flooded with raw sewerage after heavy rains.

“It’s important that we manage stormwater because it can cause problems with flooding and pollution in our communities. This is especially important when our state is seeing storms happening more frequently and in higher frequency. We need to fix these systems based on sea level rise and climate change patterns,” said Tittel.

The Murphy Administration has not reversed some of Christie’s rollbacks to clean water. Under Christie, the DEP rolled backed the Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) and Coastal Zone Management rules by adding more loopholes and waivers, weakening coastal protections. Christie’s attack on clean water included rollbacks to wetland protections, flood hazard protections, water quality planning and stream encroachment rules.

“If the Murphy Administration really want to protect this state from flooding and non-point pollution, they need to reverse Christie’s rollbacks. DEP is still using weakened rules like the Flood Hazard Rules, Waiver Rules, Stormwater Rules, and CAFRA rules that cause more flooding and pollution and put people more at risk,” said Tittel.  Christie’s weakened rules allow more development growth in flood-prone areas. We must fix them because they put more people in harm’s way while removing key protections for important waterways.”

This law will take effect on the 180th day after the date of enactment, but the Department of Environmental Protection may take such anticipatory administrative action in advance thereof as shall be necessary for the implementation of this act.

“This law is mandatory, so it is up to towns to move forward on managing their stormwater. We have so much non-point pollution destroying our waterways and it’s one of the most serious challenges we face when it comes to cleaning up our waterways. We do not like the like the public private partnership language of the law because we are concerned about privatization. However, this law will go a long way to help municipalities to come with a plan to develop a program and infrastructure in place to help clean up non-point pollution and CSOs. We thank Governor Murphy for signing this law that will help relieve some of these problems. However, this administration has a lot more to do to reduce pointless pollution,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. 

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