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‘Stormwater Utilities’ Can Help Clean Up the Problem of Polluted Runoff

Thursday, March 3, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 3/2/2016

It is a multibillion dollar problem and a major reason why most of New Jersey’s water fails to comply with federal clean water standards. But with a price tag projected to run at least $8 billion, how to deal with stormwater runoff has largely defied solution in New Jersey. Rectifying the situation means fixing the combined sewer-overflow systems where runoff from storms mixes with untreated sewage to foul rivers, streams, and bays. In a bid to deal with the longstanding problem, legislators are using a tactic already in place in approximately 1,500 jurisdictions around the country. They are moving on a bill (S-762) to allow dozens of urban areas to create stormwater utilities to help manage the runoff flowing into waterways. With capital funds constrained not only for stormwater but for other needs, including fixing and replacing aging mains that deliver drinking water to homes and businesses, the creation of the authority could impose user fees to finance a system to control and minimize the runoff. The problems are especially acute in New Jersey’s cities, where most of the state’s combined sewer overflows are located. Dating back to the 1930s, they were originally viewed as a state-of-the-art way to deal with both runoff from storms and treated sewage, according to Smith. That assessment proved wrong. When it rains heavily, the combined sewer system cannot handle the extra flow, leading to untreated sewage spilling into waterways. The proposed bill would allow about 50 urban areas to create stormwater utilities. Twenty-five cities and utilities here are in the process of obtaining permits from the Department of Environmental Protection and developing five-year plans to deal with the pollution from the systems in their communities.

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