The LRWP is pleased to be part of Jersey Water Works, a collaborative effort of many diverse organizations and individuals who embrace the common purpose of transforming New Jersey’s inadequate water infrastructure by investing in sustainable, cost-effective solutions that provide communities with clean water and waterways; healthier, safer neighborhoods; local jobs; flood and climate resilience; and economic growth. The LRWP is active on the Green Infrastructure subcommittee.
We are just a few days shy of July 1, 2018, which marks the 35th anniversary of the Clean Water Act’s failure to meet it’s “fishable-swimable” goals for our nation’s waters. What does this mean for New Jersey’s waters? The most recent published report (2014) on New Jersey’s water quality tells us that only 16% of our waters fully support general aquatic life. That is, the vast majority of our waterways are not clean enough for drinking water, aquatic life, fish consumption, or even recreation.
The Clean Water Act was about more than the protection of recreation, and fish and wildlife propagation. It was an “interim goal of water quality” intended to lead to “fishable and swimmable” waters by July 1, 1983, and to “the national goal that the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters be eliminated by 1985.” But more than a third of a century later the quality of our waterways, especially waters in our urban and historically impacted areas, are far from meeting fishable and swimmable goals.
Why? Because existing laws don’t ban pollution. They allow for polluters and developers to secure permits to pollute. The Clean Water Act is especially weak in terms of regulating the number one source of pollution in our national (and notably our New Jersey) waterways: stormwater.
Urban non-profit environmental organizations, like the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership that I run, go about the daily work of advocating for local watershed management strategies like stormwater utilities and Green Infrastructure to address the water quality and quantity problems in our watersheds. And state-wide collaborative efforts like Jersey Water Works are making tremendous strides to transform New Jersey’s water and wastewater treatment and delivery infrastructure. But without a wholesale shift in thinking around pollution in our waterways, our local waters will never meet the “fishable, swimmable” goals as set out by the CWA, no matter how many Combined Sewers we take off line, or how many rain barrels and rain gardens we install.
What else should be on our radar? How should we be rethinking water pollution policy in New Jersey? On the anniversary of the 35th year of the failure of the CWA to meet it’s goals, we offer you our top 10 ideas for effective change:
Fund major research and development for innovative water treatment and water quality monitoring technologies;
Offer economic incentives to polluters who perform beyond the minimum requirements of the law;
Add public health objectives to our water pollution control laws;
Prioritize clean-up and restoration of polluted waterways, especially in our economically disadvantaged communities;
Establish new target dates for achieving fishable, swimmable waters in New Jersey;
Establish target dates for completely eliminating the discharge of pollutants in our waterways;
Develop real-time monitoring technologies that protect water consumers and recreational users;
Increase enforcement of existing laws;
Establish mandatory monitoring for emerging pollutants including micro-plastics, pharmaceuticals and hormones;
Develop a central repository for information and resource sharing on best management practices in the state.
We welcome comments, additions and suggestions. Email us to share yours: email@example.com
Active CSO Discharge, Perth Amboy – photo credit: Raritan Riverkeeper Bill Schultz
On Saturday May 5 several partners helped the Borough of Bound Brook inaugurate its first kayak/canoe launch site. A partnership between the Borough and New Jersey American Water (NJAW) resulted in an access agreement to allow recreational use of private land, giving paddlers a new access point to the Raritan River. The agreement between the Borough and NJAW allows the public to put their watercraft into the Raritan in an area owned by NJAW under the Queens Bridge in the Borough.
Bound Brook Borough Administrator Hector Herrera and Council President Abel Gomez were joined by representatives of South Bound Brook; Somerset County; New Jersey American Water; Pfizer on behalf of Wyeth Holdings; the Raritan Riverkeeper; National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance; and members of the public for the ribbon cutting and launch ceremony on a beautiful spring day. Signs explaining how to use the access site with a map of downtown Bound Brook greeted launch users in English and Spanish.
Council President Abel Gomez noted: “This launch site for kayaks and canoes is part of a bigger plan to restore public access to the Raritan River. In 2015, the Borough’s Economic Development Advisory Committee published Riverfront Access Plan for Pedestrians and Bicyclists. This plan puts forth strategy and initiatives for a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian network to connect downtown commercial areas with the riverfront. The launch site is another element that makes Bound Brook a destination area.”
In addition to the access to the River for paddlers, the Plan calls for the creation of a park along the waterfront from Queens Bridge to Middle Brook, including the development of a riverfront trail system for pedestrians and bicyclists using inactive rail corridor and a levee system. Raritan Riverkeeper Bill Schultz explained that the “launch site will mean that paddlers can now travel all the way from Bound Brook downstream to Perth Amboy and the Raritan Bay, about 18 miles. Raritan River recreation complements the land-based recreation currently available on the south side of the river, as part of the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park.”
The Borough is receiving technical assistance from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program. The NPS helped form a steering committee made of local stakeholders, including New Jersey American Water, Somerset County Planning Division, Rutgers University Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Pfizer on behalf of Wyeth Holdings, and members of the Bough’s Economic Development Advisory Committee.
A partnership between the Borough of Bound Brook and New Jersey American Water will give kayak and canoe enthusiasts a new access point to the Raritan River. The agreement between the Borough and New Jersey American Water allows the public to put their watercraft into the River in an area owned by NJAW under the Queens Bridge in the Borough.
“This launch site for kayaks and canoes is part of a bigger plan to restore public access to the Raritan River. In 2015, the Borough’s Economic Development Advisory Committee published Riverfront Access Plan for Pedestrians and Bicyclists,” said Bound Brook Council President Abel Gomez.
“This plan puts forth strategy and initiatives for a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian network to connect downtown commercial areas with the riverfront. This launch site is another element that makes Bound Brook a destination area.”
In addition to the access to the River for kayaks and canoes, the Plan calls for an open space along the waterfront, from Queens Bridge to Middle Brook. This would include the formalization of a Bound Brook Riverfront Trail System for pedestrians and bicycles and a creation of a riverfront park. The Plan can be found by going to this url: http://boundbrook-nj.org/MasterPlan/RiverAccessPlan
The Borough received a technical assistance award from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program in 2017 and 2018. The NPS helped form a steering committee made of local stakeholders including New Jersey American Water, Somerset County Planning Division, Rutgers University Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Pfizer, and members of the Borough’s Economic Development Advisory Committee.
The Borough of Bound Brook and New Jersey American Water will formally open Bound Brook’s Riverfront Access Launch at noon on Saturday, May 5, 2018. The launch is located under the Queens Bridge in Bound Brook. RSVP required.
For more information about the kayak and canoe launch site or to RSVP for the ribbon cutting ceremony, contact Bound Brook Borough Administrator Hector Herrera 732-893-8520.
Even after today’s snow has melted and flowed from our streets, through our stormwater system, and out to Raritan Bay, our local streams and the Raritan River will carry the scars of our desire to drive quickly in wintry conditions.
Too often we forget that the salt we apply to our streets, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks is a pollutant that permanently stays in our water bodies and groundwater.
As we imagine warm summer days playing in the surf on the Jersey shore, basking in the sun and tasting salt spray, let’s remember that the salts we put on roadway surfaces ends up in our waterways. These salts increase the mobilization of heavy metals and other pollutants in roadside soils, causing erosion and aiding transport of pollutants into our waterways.
It is the case that in urbanized areas like the Lower Raritan Watershed, the first flush of meltwater is two-to-three times as salty as ocean water. We can float in the ocean because salty water is more dense than freshwater, and sinks to the bottom. Salts likewise sink to the sediments in our freshwater bodies, where they decrease oxygen levels, essentially strangling the animals that live in the benthic (bottom) layer.
These bottom-dwelling animals (benthic macroinvertebrates) are some of the most sensitive species in our ecosystem. They form the base of the food chain, and when they die off, the creatures higher up on the food chain, including fish, can’t find food.
Salt is toxic, but necessary for public safety. We are all part of the problem with over applying it, and all part of the solution, too. The top five things you can do now:
In winter, drive for the season. Our collective demand for perfectly-cleared roads is a major barrier to protecting our waterways
Ask your municipal and county leaders what they are doing to minimize salt usage on public roads.
Hire maintenance firms that have taken salt application training.
Minimize your personal use by removing snow quickly and distributing only about one coffee mug of salt for a typical driveway.
Be sure to clean up any leftover salt, sand, and de-icer to save and reuse as needed.
With grant support from the Middlesex County Office of Arts History, the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and coLAB Arts will implement the first component of the #lookfortheriver Public Art Program in New Brunswick’s Boyd Park in Summer 2018. The grant will allow for engineering and construction of a footing (the base) for a new public art piece for New Brunswick’s Boyd Park. The creative work to be installed at that site will serve both environmental/watershed awareness and cultural/community engagement purposes for the Raritan River waterfront at that site. Grant funding has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders through a grant provided by New Jersey State Council on the Arts / Department of State.
The #lookfortheriver Public Art Program is a component of the LRWP’s #lookfortheriver watershed restoration campaign, which is designed to encourage community members to “look” for buried streams using landscape cues and historical research. #lookfortheriver is a package of actions communities can engage in around flood resilience and environmental restoration. The LRWP will be rolling out aspects of the #lookfortheriver campaign through 2018 and 2019.
• Counteract the negativity and hate perpetuated in the headlines – by installing community art interventions that illustrate the compassion and love being exercised around us.
• Promote awareness about the vast array of social justice issues being addressed in New
Brunswick, connecting organizations with the wider community and each-other.
• Transform our “Main Street” spaces into literal windows of understanding.
The LRWP was paired with Kim’s Bike Shop (111 French St, New Brunswick, NJ 08901). Working with Kim’s and our coLAB Arts National Endowment for the Arts resident artist Jamie Bruno, the LRWP has developed “Listen to your neighbor, listen to the land” – which will be installed at Kim’s from January 15-February 28. “Listen to your neighbor, listen to the land” reflects the way the LRWP sees through hate as well as the way we hope to connect to our communities. The installation incorporates shoes filled with soil and plants. The shoes represent people, travel, and change. The soil represents our origins in the land.
From Jamie Bruno’s artist statement:
Across religion, race and culture we all spring from the earth and its water and soil. The plants give hope for survival and sustenance: hope to grow new roots and make new connections. The title asks the viewer to listen to their neighbors over the din of every day life. Our neighbors are people who live near us. People who live on the land we live on, yet whose stories we often do not know. In urban environments it can be difficult to know land too, yet she is everywhere: Under the pavement, in the water we drink, in the air we breathe.
• The shoes represent the human element, the “neighbor” through travel, labor and economic change in addition to empathetic connection across class, race and culture; an admonition to “walk in another’s shoes.”
• The soil represents land: absorption, filtration, and contamination. Soil health effects human health though the quality of our fruits and vegetables as their roots gather nutrients and the quality of the water in our watersheds as water either filters slowly through healthy soil becoming clean or flows quickly above compacted soil carrying waste.
• The plants represent the hope to grow new roots in new places and to make new connections. Plants store and slow water as it moves through the landscape, further cleaning it, thereby increasing the landscapes inherent value to local wildlife and to neighbors, whether they pass through or decide to stick around and plant their own seeds.
The LRWP and Kim’s invite you to join us from 2-4 PM on Monday January 15, 2018 for the “unveiling” of “Listen to your neighbor, listen to the land” and for refreshments. We will be outside in front of the store planting milkweed for participants to take home, and handing out seed packets for summer gardens.
For more information contact Jamie Bruno: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following are the headlines on our watch list:
National Monuments Under Threat: On April 26 President Trump signed an Executive Order to roll back the Antiquities Act, which could change National Monument designation (and the protections that that designation affords) for our National Monuments.
Marches for Science and Climate: Throughout April tens of thousands of people took to the streets in over 600 communities to celebrate science and its critical role in both society and policy, and to bring attention to the science that underscores our understanding of climate change.
Water Protectors in Standing Rock, North Dakota protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline brought attention to serious flaws in the federal environmental review and approval process for crude oil and natural gas pipeline projects. The Water Protectors argued that all infrastructure projects need to include a truly comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that evaluates impacts to our natural and cultural assets.
While the federal oversights affecting Standing Rock were particularly egregious, the legacy of compromised Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) environmental review processes should be of concern to New Jersey residents as well. Oil and gas pipelines already fragment our environment as they crisscross the state. Our Lower Raritan Watershed may be impacted further by the proposed. This project includes a 3.4-mile-long, 26-inch-diameter pipeline loop in Middlesex County, and a 23.4-mile-long, 26-inch-diameter pipeline loop (called the “Raritan Bay Loop”) beginning at the Middlesex County coast and crossing New Jersey and New York State marine waters.
Because the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership has concerns that the pipeline would have irreversible impacts on our communities, watershed ecology and marine habitat, we joined dozens of other concerned citizens and environmental groups at the April 20 meeting of the Middlesex County Freeholders to encourage elected officials to take action on a project that would pose significant risks. The Home News covered our public statements, and the Middlesex County Freeholder’s response.
And on April 25, the LRWP applied for intervenor status to address the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the Williams/Transcontinental Application for the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) Pipeline Project (Docket Number CP17-101). Becoming an intervenor provides legal standing in the proceeding, and obligates FERC to address any comments we may submit. The LRWP included the following in our application for intervenor status:
“The Transco Pipeline proposals pose significant risks to our Central New Jersey communities. These projects will solely benefit New York City markets, yet our New Jersey communities would bear significant public health and economic risks – including increased rates of leukemia, lymphomas, respiratory disorders and other diseases – while receiving little or no benefits. We must not expose our local communities to a high-risk proposition with little to no reward.
The Transco Pipeline proposals will harm our environment and the habitat of our Raritan Watershed and Raritan Bay. The building of pipeline infrastructure and the transport of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region to New York will fragment our natural habitat, and disrupt commercial and recreational marine activities for residents and visitors. Our communities are working hard to restore landscapes destroyed by decades of industrial dumping and toxic pollution, let’s not reverse this positive trend.
The Transco Pipeline proposals are unnecessary. The Transco Pipeline would be a redundant expansion of industrial natural gas infrastructure through our Middlesex County, Somerset County and Bayshore communities. The LRWP recognizes that aging rail, bridge and other infrastructure that currently accommodates fuel transport poses risks that could lead to devastating spills in our waterways. This serious concern that can be addressed by two-pronged strategy: significant investment in the repair and maintenance of our existing infrastructure, and shifting investments to safe, clean renewable energy.
The Transco Pipeline proposals are not what our communities want. The overwhelmingly negative feedback on the project during community meetings has made it clear that this project does not have the support of community residents!”