DEP and Clean Water Don't Mix

By Jerry Flanagan NJPIRG

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association July 1999 Newsletter)

The failure of government agencies to address the most pressing problems of our time is always unacceptable. When that inaction threatens public health and our environment, those agency's must be held accountable, and proactive steps must be taken, in order to provide for a safe and healthy future for New Jersey.

To this end, the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) Citizen Lobby, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, and the Sierra Club recently released a major report entitled, New Jersey's Waters At Risk: An Examination of the State's Clean Water Program, which documents the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) clear and consistent pattern of failure to implement state and federal mandates to protect waterways from pollution. The groups also announced the launch of the Clean Water Now! Campaign which seeks dramatic reductions in water pollution in New Jersey.

Despite some improvements in our waterways, DEP's failure to implement key state and Federal water protection mandates has left New Jersey to face a myriad of severe and unaddressed water quality problems. For instance, the DEP has failed to implement a single federally mandated clean-up plan for any one of the 1,042 waterway segments that are known or suspected to not meet water quality standards in New Jersey. Further, in 1996 and again in 1999, the DEP has supported proposals to weaken water quality standards and allow millions of additional gallons of processed wastewater, containing sewage and carcinogens, to be discharged into New Jersey's drinking water supplies. In addition, the report found:

- Our rivers, lakes and streams are overburdened with pollution. In New Jersey, sewage treatment plants have been granted permits by the DEP to discharge processed industrial waste and sewage into our surface waters. Due to this, hundreds of lakes and streams in the state fail to meet fishable and swimmable standards set by state regulators because of unhealthy levels of pollutants.

- Our drinking water sources are threatened. New Jersey allows polluters to discharge pollutants, including suspected carcinogens, to the rivers used for drinking water supply. Due to heavy pollution loads in waterways throughout New Jersey, water suppliers must treat drinking water sources with chemicals, which fail to remove all the pollutants, and result in byproducts that are suspected carcinogens.

- Sprawl and overdevelopment are destroying our last remaining pristine waterways. Massive development means that sewer systems must be expanded and more pollution dumped into our waterways. This problem is of significant concern in areas that drain into the state's pristine waterways -- the state's last remaining natural resources.

In light of the DEP's record of inaction and attempted rollbacks, Governor Whitman must mandate that the DEP make dramatic reductions in water pollution. Specifically, the Clean Water Now! Campaign is calling on Governor Whitman to:

1. Crackdown On Major Polluters. New Jersey must mandate that major polluters dramatically reduce water pollution -- beginning with an immediate 30% reduction.

2. Ban Worst Toxic Discharges Into Drinking Water Sources, New Jersey must stop polluters from discharging the worst toxic chemicals into drinking water sources.

3. Protect Pristine Waterways From Sprawling Development. New Jersey must not allow sprawling development and expanding sewage treatment plants to destroy New Jersey's last remaining pristine waters.

New Jersey citizens' have clearly stated again and again, in polls and in the ballot box, that they want clean water. Yet, a consistent pattern of government inaction and rollbacks has resulted in severe and unaddressed water quality problems. Enough is enough. Governor Whitman should support the Clean Water Now! Campaign platform and ensure a clean water future for New Jersey.


Jerry Flanagan

Environmental Advocate, NJPIRG Citizen Lobby

Contact: Jerry Flanagan, (609) 394-8155 ext. 307 Trenton, New Jersey


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