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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: 11/13/01
01/138

CONTACT: Amy Collings or Loretta O'Donnell
(609) 984-1795 or 609-292-2994

DEP RELEASES 2000 'STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT' REPORT
New publication offers public, students a 'plain language' look
at state's environmental achievements, challenges

How clean is the air? Is it safe to swim in the ocean? How much open space has been preserved? Are there fewer eagles or are they rebounding?

To help citizens learn about the New Jersey environment, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today released an updated report on the state of the environment. "New Jersey's Environment 2000" provides a comprehensive overview of the quality of the air, water and other natural resources in the Garden State.

"During the last eight years, we've set specific goals for cleaning the environment and enhanced our ability to measure our progress in achieving those goals. This report reflects many positive trends in environmental quality and demonstrates that New Jersey is well positioned to meet its goals as we enter the new millennium. But success is only possible through partnerships. Because everyone has a role to play in protecting our environment, the report includes information on how individuals can partner with us to help make a difference in the quality of life in New Jersey," said DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn. "This report demonstrates DEP's commitment to be accountable to the public, and how the public can become more involved in environmental protection."

New Jersey's air quality, for example, continued to improve during the 1990s but the state still faces the challenge of reducing ozone, commonly known as summer smog. By the most stringent standards, ozone levels were unhealthy on 19 days in the year 2000, compared to 68 days in 1991. Commissioner Shinn has worked on the regional, national and international levels to reduce the amount of ozone-forming pollutants in upwind areas that cause unhealthy smog levels in downwind regions. The report notes residents can help reduce ozone by selecting fuel-efficient cars, energy-efficient appliances, and power providers that use renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and geothermal power.

Water quality improvements include a reduction in the number of severely impaired streams. In the early 1990s, 12 percent of waterways were severely impaired. Today, the figure has dropped to 8.6 percent. The state's goal is for 50 percent of all streams to be unimpaired by 2005.
Coastal waters have also improved. This is reflected in the number of acres of coastal waters open for shellfish harvesting, and the number of summertime beach closings. During the 1980s and 1990s, the percent of acres open for shellfishing has increased from about 77 percent to 88 percent. Ocean beach closing dropped from 32 in 1990 to 11 in 2000.

The percentage of the state's major drinking water systems meeting all standards has remained consistently high during the 1990s and has generally improved over time. In 1999, 97 percent of these water systems met all of the microbiological standards and 93 percent met all chemical standards.

In addition to providing record levels of funding for sewage plant upgrades and other water protection projects through the Environmental Infrastructure Trust, the DEP has initiated a statewide program to address broad sources of pollution such as stormwater runoff through the development of watershed management plans at the local level. The report also notes that residents can help improve water quality by choosing biodegradable cleaners and detergents and learning lawn and garden techniques that reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides that can wash into waterways during rain storms.

New Jersey is a national leader in open space preservation. In the late 1980s, New Jersey had 690,745 acres of preserved open space. In 2000, New Jersey had 967,218 acres and is on-track to realize Governor Christie Whitman's goal of permanently protecting a total of 1.4 million acres of open space by 2010.

Other indicators of the state's progress include:

Endangered Species: In New Jersey, the nation's symbol, the bald eagle, has rebounded following an aggressive DEP campaign to re-establish nesting pairs. In 1990, there were only five nesting pairs of bald eagles in New Jersey. By 2000, the number had risen to 23.

Site Clean-ups: In the early 1990s, there were about 6,000 known contaminated sites in New Jersey. By 2000, the number had grown, but more than 12,000 contaminated sites had been remediated. The vast majority of evaluated sites - 88 percent - were cleaned up to highest standards and are suitable for residential use.

Toxic Emissions: Due to strict regulations and efforts to reduce the amount of mercury being discarded, mercury emissions from municipal waste incinerators have dropped from more than 4,000 pounds a year in the early 1990s to less than 300 pounds by the year 2000.

This is the second report on the state of New Jersey's environment. The first was published in 1998. Copies are being distributed to major libraries, local governments and schools. The "New Jersey's Environment 2000" report can be viewed at DEP's website at www.state.nj.us/dep.

 

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