DEP RELEASES 2000 'STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT' REPORT
New publication offers public, students a 'plain language'
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
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
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
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.