Towns Enter Final Phase of Search for a Solution to Reduce Sewage Overflows in New Jersey Waterways
Reports reveal potential options but community benefits are still unclear
Trenton, July 18– Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) permit holders met New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) July 1st deadline to submit the Development and Evaluation of Alternatives reports that analyze their options to reduce flooding and pollution caused by these outdated systems.
“The best solutions for New Jersey will come not only from the engineers writing these plans but from the residents of New Jersey,” said Mo Kinberg, New Jersey Future Community Outreach Manager. “Comments can be submitted by the public to the NJDEP for consideration by September 1, 2019. We strongly urge community members to submit comments on these plans.”
Twenty-one municipalities in New Jersey rely on combined sewer systems that use one pipe to take both wastewater and stormwater to the sewer treatment plant. During wet weather events, this can easily overwhelm the system causing the untreated sewer water to overflow directly into rivers and streams—or, in the worst cases—back up into basements. This is especially troubling for the older urban communities who are experiencing increased flooding due to the impacts of climate change.
“Communities will be investing billions of dollars to stop sewage from overflowing into waterways and backing up onto streets and into basements,” said Kim Gaddy, Newark resident and Environmental Justice Organizer for Clean Water Action. “The question is what will this investment look like and how will it benefit our communities?”
While the Evaluation of Alternatives reports are not final plans,they provide a first look at the solutions being considered and a breakdown of which ones are likely to be the most feasible. NJDEP recognizes the importance of public input in this process and has required the permittees to educate and engage the public in the selection of alternatives. Individuals may submit comments by September 1, 2019.
“As of July 1, 2019, communities have less than a year until final the final plans known as Long Term Control Plans (LTCPs) are due,” said Nicole Miller of NewarkDIG (Doing Infrastructure Green). “Once the final plans are approved by the NJDEP they will take decades to complete and cost millions of dollars to implement. With proper community input, LTCPs have the potential to provide benefits. Now is the time for the community members to make their voices heard by submitting comments to NJDEP and participating in local and regional stakeholder meetings. The next few months are critical for the residents and business owners who will be impacted by these plans and who will ultimately pay for them.”
“These reports show that local communities are very concerned about sewage overflows into nearby streets and waterways and that they expect green solutions to be incorporated into the next phase of planning because while reducing sewage flows it also provides open space, improved air quality and heat island temperature reductions that aren’t realized with traditional infrastructure,” said Greg Remaud, NY/NJ Baykeeper.
“These alternatives plans are a critical step in gathering local knowledge from communities suffering from polluted stormwater and sewage flooding. The people who live in these communities understand these problems and their effects the best. Projects in these alternatives plans, specifically, green infrastructure, will reduce flooding and sewage overflow, and will improve the environment of the community, the health of its citizens, and property values,” said Jennifer M. Coffey, ANJEC Executive Director.
The Evaluation of Alternatives reports are the result of permits issued by NJDEP in 2015 to 25 municipalities and utilities in New Jersey with combined sewer systems requiring them to develop plans to reduce the number and severity of combined sewer overflows. These overflows happen when stormwater overwhelms the system. This combination of stormwater and sewage is released into nearby waterways, and sometimes floods area streets and backs up into basements.
For more information on participating in stakeholder meetings and other ways to get involved go to SewageFreeNJ.org
All of the Development and Evaluation of Alternative reports can be downloaded from the NJDEP website.