EPA Says Pending NJ Water Quality Bill Could Violate Federal Law

TRENTON – The federal Environmental Protection Agency warned that portions of a bill being considered by New Jersey’s Legislature could jeopardize the state’s ability to comply with the Clean Water Act and could have “significant adverse impacts” on water quality.

The bi-partisan bill, A-4335/S-3156, will be on the calendar in both the state Senate and Assembly on Monday. It is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Albert Coutinho and Louis D. Greenwald, Assembly Republicans Alex DeCroce and Alison Littell McHose, Senate Democrat Paul A. Sarlo and Senate Republican Steven V. Oroho.

The legislation would delay the implementation of the state’s Water Quality Management Planning rules, which are intended to promote smart growth by curbing suburban sprawl by limiting sewer lines and septic systems in large portions of the state.

Advocates of the bill say that it could lead to construction work that would create jobs to boost New Jersey’s economy. Critics contend that it’s a giveaway to developers who want to build up the state’s open space.

According to a letter by EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck to state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) who requested an analysis of the bill:

“By delaying implementation of these rules, the bill could undermine years of comprehensive planning and lead to degradation of surface and ground water. Second, provisions in this legislation which would allow for land to be included in a sewer service area that may not currently have the capacity to treat wastewater from such land, could adversely impact the ability of the relevant municipality to comply with the Clean Water Act.”

“We thank the EPA for standing up for clean water in the state of New Jersey and for doing the analysis the Legislature and DEP refuses to do on this bill,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “ The EPA has found this legislation will destroy our waterways and could cost the state millions. Our Legislature is ignoring these consequences and moving ahead to please developers and special interests. This dirty deal at the State House will directly result in dirty water for New Jersey residents.”

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