FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2022
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Vincent Grassi (609) 984-1795
Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795
(22/P047) TRENTON – The Murphy Administration marked a milestone in improving the health of New Jersey’s waterways by issuing draft permits to address combined sewer overflows from the North Bergen Municipal Utilities Authority Woodcliff Sewage Treatment Plant and the adjoining Town of Guttenberg along the Hudson River in Hudson County, Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette announced today.
The draft New Jersey Pollutant Discharge System (NJPDES) renewal permits issued by the Department of Environmental Protection are the first to be issued that lay out schedules for combined sewer overflow reduction projects under long-term plans to reduce or eliminate combined sewer discharges affecting surface water quality in urban parts of the state.
Specifically, the draft permits set forth the schedule for implementation of combined sewer overflow reduction projects including the ongoing expansion of the Woodcliff treatment plant so that it can accept additional combined sewage flows from North Bergen and Guttenberg. The permits also require North Bergen and the Town of Guttenberg to take other steps to reduce combined sewer overflows such as green infrastructure. These measures are designed to reduce the frequency of combined sewer overflow discharges related to heavy rainfall and snowmelt events.
“Unfortunately, combined sewer systems continue to discharge pollutants to our waterways during storm events and are a huge challenge in older urban areas here in New Jersey and across the country,” Commissioner LaTourette said. “The work that communities and wastewater treatment authorities implement will reduce discharges of combined sewage to our waterways and address flooding related to these discharges in our neighborhoods, which is becoming an increasing problem due to the impacts of climate change.”
Combined sewer systems were designed many decades ago to collect rainwater and snowmelt runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipe. New combined sewer systems are no longer permitted in New Jersey, but many older cities in the state are permitted to continue to operate existing combined sewer systems. Most of these systems are found in the oldest regions of New Jersey, including in the New York-New Jersey Harbor region and in Camden and Gloucester City along the Delaware River in southern New Jersey. Discharges from these systems can be a public health threat by impairing receiving waterways and by causing flooding of streets with combined wastewater and stormwater.
“Members of the Utility & Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey and our partners in labor stand ready to help the State, local governments and wastewater utility leaders deliver the critical infrastructure projects required by these permits,” said UTCA Executive Director Dave Rible. “We all know that eliminating CSOs in the State of New Jersey will take more than just issuing permits. Therefore, we must all support sustained federal and state funding, increased technical support and compliance assistance. We congratulate and applaud NJDEP leadership and its dedicated staff for taking this critical step.”
“Jersey Water Works members are pleased that the rollout of CSO permits has begun,” said Nicole Miller, Jersey Water Works Co-Chair. “Combined Sewer Overflows present a real danger to the health and safety of New Jerseyans and those water bodies connected to our rivers and streams. We're thankful to the hardworking team at the NJDEP Division of Water Quality for their robust stakeholder engagement process and look forward to working with them, our community partners, small businesses, and affected residents on this and future permits. Jersey Water Works is committed to supporting CSO solutions that provide many benefits for the community cost-effectively.”
“The issue of combined sewer overflows presents an immediate and long-term danger to the safety and health of New Jerseyans in 21 impacted communities or an estimated 1.6 million people,” said New Jersey Future Policy Director Diane Schrauth. “As we anticipate increased flooding in the decades ahead, it is imperative that we shield at-risk communities from harmful waste flooding our streets, streams, and rivers. New Jersey Future appreciates NJDEP’s efforts on this issue and welcomes the release of the first of many CSO permits. Implementing these permits will allow communities to incorporate green infrastructure and climate change preparation to reduce overflows, flooding, and hazards using funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and funding allocated by the Governor and Legislature from the American Rescue Plan Act.”
The DEP has a permit framework that encourages regional collaboration on planning, development, and implementation of projects that began with enhanced public education, information about the problem, and an opportunity for public input.
The permittees were required to advise the public when combined sewer overflows occur, which is continued in this renewal. The DEP is moving into the next important phase of this effort by issuing these NJPDES permits that will lay out schedules for a variety of projects to address combined sewer overflows identified in long-term control plans.
These strategies include infrastructure improvements such as treatment plant expansions, construction of holding tanks, and implementation of green infrastructure projects such as rain gardens to better prevent stormwater from entering the combined sewer systems. In the coming months, the DEP will be issuing similar permits under this framework for additional permittees that includes municipalities with combined sewer systems.
Draft NJPDES permit renewals for the Woodcliff plant and the Town of Guttenberg are available for inspection, by appointment, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., at the DEP building, 401 East State Street, Trenton. Appointment for inspection may be requested through the Office of Records Access. Details are available online at www.nj.gov/dep/opra, or by calling (609) 341-3121. Copies of the draft permits are available on the DEP’s Division of Water Quality website at https://nj.gov/dep/dwq/cso.htm .
The DEP will hold a virtual public hearing to solicit public comment on the draft permits on January 23, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, then again from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (or end of testimony, whichever comes first). This hearing will be conducted virtually via the DEP’s video conferencing software (i.e., Microsoft Teams). A link and a telephone number to the virtual public hearing will be provided on the Department’s NJPDES Division of Water Quality website https://nj.gov/dep/dwq/cso.htm the morning of the hearing.
Comments may be submitted in writing to Susan Rosenwinkel, Chief, or Attention: Comments on Public Notice NJ0029084 and/or NJ0108715, at Mail Code 401-02B, Division of Water Quality, Bureau of Surface Water & Pretreatment Permitting, P.O. Box 420, Trenton, NJ 08625-0420 by the close of the public comment period. Comments via email are also acceptable and can be sent to email@example.com
The public comment period is scheduled to end on February 13, 2023.
For more information on combined sewer overflows and the steps the DEP is taking to address this problem, visit https://www.nj.gov/dep/dwq/cso.htm