photo courtesy of Derek Michalski
the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Upper Saddle River NJ, 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 will be Tuesday January 8, 2019 at 1:00 pm at the Department of Environmental Protection
“New Jersey has serious problems with flooding and water quality from runoff. DEP’s new rule is a step backwards and not forward when it comes to dealing with stormwater. It does not deal with climate change, flooding, combined sewer overflows, and would make it easier to build pipelines. The new the rule has too many exemptions and furthers Christie’s rollbacks on protections to our waterways. It allows for green infrastructure which is good however it says to the maximum extension practice which is a loophole big enough to fit a bulldozer through,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We have waited almost a year for a new Murphy DEP rule to be proposed. The rule is not only a disappointment, but we have to actually oppose it. This rule was worked by the Christie Administration and proposed by Murphy Administration went forward with this anyway.”
The DEP is proposing to replace the current requirement that major developments incorporate nonstructural stormwater management strategies to the “maximum extent practicable” to meet groundwater recharge standards, stormwater runoff quantity standards, and stormwater runoff quality standards, with a requirement that green infrastructure be utilized to meet these same standards.
“The rule has major flaws in it. The model is based on dealing 100-year storm events that we are having every year. It doesn’t really change the flood system. The rule does not look at climate change or the frequency and intensity of storms. This means if you leave along the Passaic or the Raritan River, your going to need snorkels. Instead of moving us forward it keeps the status quo. It exempts existing development which is already the largest source of non-pollution in our state. Which 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,” said Tittel.
The NJDEP looks to incorporate green infrastructure to be utilized to meet the same standards groundwater recharge standards, stormwater runoff quantity standards, and stormwater runoff quality standards.
“The rule calls for green infrastructure but keeps the current standards that do not work. It also keeps in place Christie’s rollbacks of the 300 foot buffers, SWARPA, revegetating stream buffers or riparian corridors as a way of dealing with non-point pollution. The amended stormwater rules does nothing to retrofit our stormwater retention and detention basin systems that don’t work that break up impervious cover to absorb more water. This rule is a continuation of Christie’s rollbacks on wetlands, flood hazard, and stormwater that does not protect stream buffers or C1 streams,” said Tittel. DEP’s proposal for green infrastructure in the new rule is with just an added green veneer.”
New Jersey need at least $14 billion just to fix our combined sewer overflow systems, but overall we need more than $45 billion to fix our water and sewage infrastructure. We’ve been kicking the can down the road for so long that now the road is underwater and the can is clogging a storm drain. 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.
“The rule does not really deal with address combined sewer overflow. 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, swimable, and drinkable, mostly because of non-point solution. 65% of our streams are impacted by phosphorus,” said Tittel. “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.”
Over ten percent of the land in New Jersey is impervious surface, making us prone to flooding and pollution problems. The Christie Administration has weakened our coastal areas to more flooding and pollution. Their Flood Hazard rules add more development to environmentally sensitive areas, getting rid of stream buffers, and eliminating protections for headwaters. Then in a one-two punch for water quality, the Administration increased sewer hook-ups in the Water Quality Management Planning rules, which will have a major impact to open space and nearby reservoirs and streams throughout the state. This will especially impact the most environmentally sensitive areas of the Highlands and Pinelands that contain the water supply for millions of people.
“This stormwater rule codifies and will further Christie’s rollbacks. DEP still have not reversed rollbacks on the wetlands and stormwater rules from the Christie Administration but still allows for outfall structure called scours, causing 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 green infrastructure standards also only deal with total suspended solids, not other pollutants that come off of stormwater runoff like nitrogen or phosphorous,” said Tittel.
The Barnegat Bay is turning into New Jersey’s largest stormwater detention basin and its whole ecology is changing. DEP must control development and sprawl near the bay and prevent massive projects like development in Lakewood that will add more pollution to the Bay.
“This rule does not change the basic standard of the amount of water that can be adsorbed into the ground or clean up of non-point pollution. It still has the same standards that do not work in New Jersey in the last 40 years. New Jersey has serious water problems because of non point pollution. 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,” said Tittel. “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.”
An important way to improve our stormwater management is to reverse Christie’s rollbacks and put in place stronger protections. The DEP have to address the stormwater management and nonpoint source pollution issues.
“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,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “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.”
A public hearing on the proposal will be Tuesday January 8, 2019 at 1:00 pm at the Department of Environmental Protection, 1st floor Public Hearing Room, 401 East State Street Trenton, NJ 08625