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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: Dec. 4, 1998
98/153
CONTACT: Loretta O'Donnell or Amy Collings
(609) 984-1795 or 292-2994

DEP ISSUES FIRST STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT REPORT FOR THE PUBLIC

New Jersey's first environmental progress report written for the general public documents the success of strategies that have resulted in cleaner air, cleaner water and expanding areas of protected open space while also outlining what concerned individuals can do to help meet the state's continuing environmental challenges.

New Jersey's Environment 1998, written by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), uses plain language to outline the status of New Jersey's air and water quality, waste management and natural resources, as well as goals for the future. The overall quality of the state's environment is improving in many areas including:

  • Substantial reduction of formerly significant levels of many types of air and water pollution such as a reduction in the number of ozone days and a yearly increase in the amount of shellfish harvesting waters.

  • Preservation of broad areas of open space and farmland with increases every year to the current 920,000 acres which Gov. Whitman has pledged to double within the next decade.

  • Encouragement of cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield sites through incentives and programs that have significantly increased the number of remediations. From 1994 through 1997, private parties and local governments signed 5,648 voluntary cleanup agreements.

In her inaugural address in January, Gov. Whitman noted that the state would establish ways to measure and report to the public on environmental quality and progress.

"This report keeps my pledge to provide an accounting, in plain English, of the substantial progress we've made improving the health of New Jersey's environment," said Governor Christie Whitman. "We recycle more than any other state. Our air is cleaner than it has been in decades and so are our coastal waters, where we have opened new shellfish beds every year for the past 11 years. Ten years ago we had over 800 beach closings. New Jersey now boasts the cleanest beaches in the nation."

While the report covers information through 1997, additional environmental progress has been made since then including a reduction in the number of ozone violations to only four this year and only three beach closings.

"This State of the Environment report is interrelated with our Strategic Plan and National Environmental Performance Partnership System (NEPPS) to establish indicators and goals by measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of our efforts," said DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn.

"We have made great progress in many areas, such as air and water quality, and pollution prevention. We believe we can further these trends of reducing pollution and I encourage New Jersey citizens to join our efforts as partners for a cleaner, healthier environment."

In addition to explaining and charting current trends, each section of the report lists specific steps the public can take for cleaner air and water, and a higher quality of life in New Jersey, as well as ways for obtaining additional information. Distribution of the report will include major libraries, mayors, secondary school educators, watershed associations, environmental commissions and at various state-wide events.

Air Quality: Air quality in New Jersey is greatly improved, with two thirds fewer unhealthful air quality days than in the late 1980s, when the number regularly reached 30 or more annually. The state, in general, is in compliance with five out of the six criteria air pollutants that have federal standards. (carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead and particulates).

  • For the remaining pollutant, ozone, we are making progress to be in compliance with the new, more stringent eight-hour standard that must be met by the year 2010. We also are taking steps to reduce particulate matter to comply with more stringent standards before the year 2015 deadline. New Jersey is implementing regulations to reduce emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks and industrial facilities, and promoting low emission vehicles.

  • To address the long-term threat of sea level rise, the state is developing a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging energy efficiency and innovative technology.

Water Quality: Water quality continues to improve. Due to a variety of efforts over the past 20 years, fish populations in the Delaware have rebounded dramatically, shellfish harvesting beds have been reclaimed, ocean dumping has ceased, and numerous sewage treatment plants have been upgraded.

  • To address more "nonpoint source" pollutants, such as fertilizers, litter, street oils, etc. that rain washes into our waterways, New Jersey is developing a watershed management program. This statewide project involves regional partnerships to control these non-point sources of pollution.

  • To protect drinking water supplies, the state carries out aggressive programs to remove leaking underground storage tanks, to clean up Superfund and other contaminated sites, and to set drinking water standards and require testing. In 1997, 7 percent of the water systems in New Jersey exceeded the maximum contaminant levels for volatile organic chemicals, compared to 20 percent in 1983.

Natural Resources: Statewide, since its inception 35 years ago, the Green Acres program has provided over $1.4 billion to the state, counties, municipalities and non-profits for the protection of over 390,000 acres. The amount of open space in New Jersey has nearly doubled in the past 25 years. Presently, New Jersey has 920,000 acres of permanently protected open space. Voters in November approved Gov. Whitman's plan to protect an additional 1 million acres.

  • About 175 million pounds of fish valued at more than $95 million are harvested annually from New Jersey waters. Populations of striped bass, weakfish and summer founder are making significant recoveries, while other species are declining. Fish and shellfish consumption advisories for five species are in effect in select waters, due to pollution.

  • Fifteen percent of New Jersey's native plants are endangered, and nearly one of every three native New Jersey plants is at risk of becoming rare. About one third of the state's animal species are either rare or endangered. The key to protecting endangered and threatened species is to preserve parcels of open space and link them with greenway corridors. These provide the variety of conditions that plants and animals need to survive and reproduce. In Cape May, 40 percent of the habitat needed for migratory and resident wildlife has been lost to development over the past 20 years. The state is working with a number of partners to protect habitat in Cape May.

Waste: Our state's sharp focus on pollution prevention since the late 1980s has resulted in the recycling and re-use of industrial wastes, and greater production efficiencies that have translated into significant cost-savings. Between 1991 and 1994, industrial waste generation increased 3.5 percent nationwide, yet declined 34 percent in New Jersey.

  • Of the 16 million tons of solid waste produced a year, 10 million tons are recycled. This 60 percent recycling rate was achieved in 1997. The state's goal is to increase the recycling rate to 65 percent by the year 2000. In 1970, hundreds of landfills were operating in New Jersey with little regard for the environment, and incinerators had no air pollution controls. Today, there are just 14 landfills, all state-of-the-art, and five waste incinerators, using the best available pollution controls.

  • Previously unregulated landfills contributed to the large number of contaminated sites. However, due to the state's aggressive efforts, by 1997, a total of 15,815 sites had been cleaned and required no further action, up from 9,326 sites in 1994.

STEPS THE PUBLIC CAN TAKE TO HELP

Become more informed - Visit the DEP's home page at http://www.state.nj.us/dep for more information on all of the department's programs. Copies of New Jersey's Environment 1998 may be obtained by calling the Division of Science and Research at (609) 984-6071. The report also will be available on the home page by Dec. 11. [The report is now available at http:\\www.state.nj.us\dep\dsr\soe\soe.html.] Additional information on New Jersey's environmental indicator activities also is available on the home page under the NEPPS portion through a companion report entitled Environmental Indicators Technical Report 1998.

Air

  • Conserve energy - Most energy use comes from the burning of fuel, so the more efficiently we use energy, the less pollution. Turn off unneeded lights, use a fan instead of an air conditioner when possible and consider efficiency when buying new appliances.

  • Maintain your car - Keep your car tuned, and get it inspected when due.

  • Drive less - Try to substitute with mass transit, carpooling, walking or riding a bike. When buying a new car, look for the most fuel efficient and lowest emitting models.

Water

  • Conserve water - Install flow restrictors on faucets and use low-flow shower devices. Don't let water run unnecessarily. Minimize lawn watering.

  • Reduce pesticide use - Implement alternative pest control methods such as biological and mechanical controls, sanitation, and selective use of the least hazardous pesticides when needed. Don't apply pesticides or fertilizers before a heavy rain.

  • Don't leak vehicle fluids - Correct petroleum leaks from vehicles to avoid runoff

  • Participate in watershed management -Join local watershed associations to help in monitoring, litter clean-ups, stream bank and wetlands restoration, and education.

Natural Resources

  • Check-off for Wildlife - Contribute to the protection of endangered species by checking off for wildlife on line 46B of your state tax form. Purchase a Conserve Wildlife license plate at Motor Vehicle agencies or by calling 609-292-6500 for an application.

  • Create habitat - For information on creating a backyard habitat for migratory and breeding birds, contact the Endangered and Nongame Species Program at (609)628-2103.

Waste Management

  • Participate in your local recycling program - both at home and in the workplace.

  • Purchase products containing recycled-content materials - practice environmental shopping and purchase products that are reusable or packaged in bulk for less waste.

  • Dispose of hazardous wastes properly - Don't dispose of motor oil, antifreeze or other hazardous wastes in storm sewers, toilets or house drains. Bring such wastes to county hazardous waste collection centers on designated days.

  • Switch from chemical-type household cleaners - Substitute natural products, like soap and water. Vinegar and water works well as a window cleaner.

  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn - These clippings fertilize your lawn and not bagging them reduces the amount of yard waste for trash disposal in landfills.

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