New Jersey has issued 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, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).
The draft New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) renewal permits issued by NJDEP are the first to be issued that lay out schedules for combined sewer overflow reduction projects under long-term plans to reduce 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 stormwater 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,” says Shawn M. LaTourette, Commissioner of Environmental Protection. “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.”
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.
NJDEP 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. NJDEP 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.