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RELEASE: 1/31/01
CONTACT: Loretta O'Donnell or Amy Collings
609-984-1795 or 609-292-2994


The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today adopted a portion of the Water Quality and Watershed Management rules requiring new development using septic systems to undergo the same environmental assessments as proposed new sewer service areas.

"Applying the water quality and water quantity protection guidelines in Governor Whitman's Executive Order 109 to septic development will have a significant effect on the state's water resources. By requiring assessments for developments using septic systems, we are greatly increasing protection of water quality, and at the same time, supporting development in areas that are not environmentally sensitive or agricultural production areas of the state," said DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn.

The rule, known as Subchapter 6 of the Water Quality and Watershed Management Rules, will be published in the NJ Register Feb. 20 and becomes effective March 20.

"This rule levels the playing field for protection of the state's water resources by requiring that comprehensive environmental assessments apply to all types of development," said Shinn.

The rule applies to residential developments of six or more units and commercial development discharging 2,000 gallons of wastewater or more per day into the ground.

The required environmental assessments, which are part of an applicant's new or amended wastewater management plan, examine the potential impacts and alternatives, and include evaluations of water use, riparian buffer impacts, and nonpoint source pollution.

The executive directors of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association and Upper Raritan Watershed Association, George Hawkins and Dave Pfeifer, issued the following statement in support of the rule.

"In our regions, a significant amount of development, particularly in environmentally sensitive and rural areas, is on septic systems. We also know that septic discharges may have significant consequence to the quality of our water, particularly ground water -which is often the source of drinking water in these same communities. We, therefore, strongly support the approach of this septic system rule to subject these decisions to a thorough assessment of their consequences to water quality and supply. This approach will be strengthened, however, by the adoption of a comprehensive rule that ties all wastewater infrastructure decisions to environmental assessments and clearly protective standards."

"Adopting provisions that will ensure environmental assessment of the impacts of new development, regardless of the wastewater management option selected, represents progress in the watershed approach to managing our precious water resources," said Ella Filippone, executive director of the Passaic River Coalition.

"Development results in a number of secondary and cumulative impacts. This is true whether the development uses sewers or septics for wastewater management. It is appropriate to assess the water resources impacts of all new development," said Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

The remainder of the Water Quality and Watershed Management Rules and public comments are being reviewed by DEP. Under the Governor's direction last fall to strengthen the proposed rule in response to initial public comments, a series of stakeholder and public meetings were held over the past few months. DEP expects to adopt the remainder of the rule and propose revisions later this year.


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