N.J. measure aims to give cities tools for better stormwater management

Pollutants carried by stormwater runoff have accelerated the deterioration of Barnegat Bay. Legislation under consideration in New Jersey would allow cities with combined sewer and stormwater lines to assess fees on commercial property owners that contribute to the runoff. (AP file photo)

Pollutants carried by stormwater runoff have accelerated the deterioration of Barnegat Bay. Legislation under consideration in New Jersey would allow cities with combined sewer and stormwater lines to assess fees on commercial property owners that contribute to the runoff. (AP file photo)

Serious stormwater issues in New Jersey are not being addressed, says Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith.

A bill he has sponsored would allow cities with combined sewers that carry wastewater and groundwater runoff to create municipal authorities that would impose a user fee on properties that contribute to runoff. The fees would be used to fund needed improvements.

“The people who pay are the people with large impervious surfaces. If you have a shopping center, a huge parking lot with an office building, you’re going to get a visit from a stormwater utility to collect the money necessary to build infrastructure,” said Martin, D-Middlesex.

Mike Pisauro with the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association said the measure would help reduce contamination flowing into waterways.

“It would create incentives to further address the stormwater on the property so you can create a system that would allow a property owner to retain and address more stormwater and therefore pay less of a fee,” he said Tuesday. “So you’re getting people to help create the solution.”

The measure is desperately needed, said New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel.

“You’re talking about the impacts to our bays and estuaries, to our beaches, beach closings, fisheries being closed,” he said. “It’s a health hazard. It’s a serious environmental hazard. It undermines the revitalization of our cities.”

Tittel estimated it would cost about $13 billion to replace all the combined sewer systems in the state.

Smith said it’s imperative to get that process moving.

He said 50 New Jersey cities could be sued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency because their combined sewer lines for wastewater and groundwater runoff can overflow during heavy rains and cause pollution.

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