WCAS NewsState Proposes Water Quality Rule Upgrades
Pat Sziber
State Proposes Water Quality Rule Upgrades

Pat Sziber

In late April, NJDEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson rolled out proposals for significant upgrades to the state’s two main water quality protection rules. For Surface Water Quality Standards, DEP is proposing a new definition for Category One waters which includes designation of about 910 river/stream miles as Category One. This includes a significant portion of the Stony Brook in our area.

For Water Quality Management Planning rules, DEP is proposing, among other things, a requirement that when Wastewater Management Plans are updated as required, they "address septic density in a manner that demonstrates compliance with a 2 mg/L (ppm) nitrate planning target." This has the potential to limit the impact of septic system overload on groundwater. The revised rules would also remove environmentally sensitive lands such as steep slopes from sewer service areas.

These initiatives will go hand-in-hand to protect and improve the quality of drinking water as well as habitat and resources, not only for aquatic organisms, but for any species that rely on clean water and riparian habitats.

But the new proposals are not without their opponents. No sooner were they launched than developers and land speculators started to squawk. Category One streams require a 300-foot buffer. The septic rules will put limits on building density and there will be no more sewer service extended to those who dream of a McMansion clinging to a cliff.

What you can do: The new proposals are scheduled to be published in the New Jersey Register on May 21. You can view the rules at www.nj.gov/dep/rules/. Click on "Notice of rule proposals. Be forewarned: These are huge pdf downloads. Written comments may be submitted until July 20. Submission instructions are on the website. The schedule of public hearings is also available on the website.

Little Steps For Clean Water

The proposed new water quality protection rules are giant steps that our State government is taking. Here are a few little steps that you can take.

  • Minimize or, better yet, eliminate use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides in your yard. At the very least, do not apply if heavy rain is predicted.

  • Lawns are a source of stormwater runoff. They are actually considered impervious surface under the most stringent application of stormwater rules. Replace some of your lawn with gardens. Keep the soil from compacting by applying leaf mulch or other sustainable mulch product. Check the National Audubon website at www.audubon.org for tips. Click on "Audubon at home."

  • Pick up pet waste as soon as possible. Check out pet care websites and catalogs for special products such as a plastic bag dispenser that attaches to the leash. Doggie potty duty was never easier!

  • If you have a septic system, maintain it properly. Check with your local health officer for your township’s pumping requirements and consult him or her for advice. Health officers are eager to offer assistance on this topic -- it’s their job. If you have an aging system, it might be time to bite the bullet.

  • If your nose tells you there might be an overburdened septic system in your neighborhood there probably is. No one wants to be a whistleblower, but the entire neighborhood’s health could be at stake. Again, contact your local health officer, anonymously if it makes you feel better. He or she will check it out and advise the homeowner as to appropriate action. This is not a police action; the township will work with the homeowner.

  • Sudsy water in a stream can be deceiving. Decaying vegetation can cause brownish suds but masses of white bubbles are likely from detergent. It could indicate a malfunctioning septic or even direct discharge of laundry water into a storm drain. That’s a big no-no. Notify your environmental commission and let them check it out.


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Last revision: Wednesday, March 21, 2007