The below piece is a written follow-up to oral testimony given at an Oct. 19, 2017 public hearing at the Clean Water Council, c/o the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in Trenton. This written testimony was provided Oct. 31. The Clean Water Council holds an annual hearing and this year the topic was stormwater management. The AEA comments deal with explaining the limited role authorities currently have and the conditions under which authorities may have a role in statewide efforts to address non-point source pollution.
AEA Response Testimony at Clean Water Council Public Hearing:
Taking Stormwater Management to the Next Level
The Association of Environmental Authorities is a trade association that represents utilities authorities and municipal utilities owned by the public, along with private-sector businesses that support them. These members provide clean water and solid waste services to about eight million New Jerseyans. We are grateful for this opportunity to offer comments to the NJ Clean Water Council.
After the passage of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, local governments in New Jersey partnered to create county and regional authorities to address water and wastewater service needs. Individual municipalities created municipal utilities authorities to serve their own water and wastewater needs and in some cases those of neighbors as well. Through authorities and other service delivery models, New Jersey has achieved significant reductions in point-source pollution. Beach closings are now rare. Aquatic life has re-emerged. With new analytical methods for testing water that can detect ever-smaller concentrations of metals and toxic chemicals, there is every reason to hope for continued improvement in outcomes for point-source pollution reduction. Now, it is time for non-point source pollution to be addressed with the same systematic efforts.
AEA members have an interest in the dialogue about non-point source pollution reduction. Addressing stormwater pollution can help wastewater and drinking water service providers save money for their ratepayers in reduced treatment costs. Influxes of stormwater can damage the wastewater treatment process and threaten the ability of treatment plants to comply with discharge permits.
It makes sense to include existing drinking water and wastewater agencies in statewide efforts to address non-point source pollution. They already know about how to treat “raw” water to deliver safe “finished” drinking water and how to treat wastewater so that it can be safely discharged into rivers and streams. Authorities are experienced water infrastructure managers, handling operations and maintenances and engaging in long-term capital and financial planning (asset management). However, authorities are not statutorily responsible for stormwater. Engaging them as partners would require amending the statutes that govern authorities. The law would have to be amended to unequivocally permit authorities to work with MS-4 permittees on stormwater. It would have to permit a new funding mechanism as well— authorities cannot be asked to stretch existing drinking water and/or wastewater funding for stormwater. They need existing funding to maintain water quality and infrastructure.
In the event legislation is created to permit stormwater utilities, water/wastewater authorities should be among those permitted to participate and collect user fees. Legislation should address conditions under which a stormwater facility can be turned over to the stormwater utility and how access for on-going maintenance would be handled. Collaboration and efficient use of existing resources and service delivery systems should be encouraged*. At the same time, authorities must be able to determine the impact participation might have on existing water/wastewater responsibilities and whether it would benefit existing customers. The best outcomes will be achieved if regulations take into account changing conditions, and if they are allow on site-specific investigation, proper sampling, appropriate testing, and an integrated approach to water quality management.
New Jersey can’t address stormwater or any of its environmental challenges effectively without the political will to do so. Citizens, business leaders and local officials must understand the consequences of ignoring the problems of non-point source pollution and the great benefits of addressing them. Many people and organizations, including the Clean Water Council, are working to increase the understanding and awareness that can lead to action. CSO owners like Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission and North Hudson Sewerage Authority are engaging with their communities. Authorities such as Landis Sewerage Authorities, Camden County MUA, Atlantic County Utilities Authority, Mount Laurel Township MUA, and Brick Township MUA reach beyond the gates of their treatment plants to connect with and educate the public. Many authorities work informally with public works departments on stormwater basin cleaning or similar activities.
AEA commends the Clean Water Council for choosing this topic for its public hearing and urges the Council to continue its important work with the Department of Environmental Protection and other stakeholders on non-point source pollution.
Respectfully submitted by Peggy Gallos
AEA Executive Director
Clean Water Council appointed Peggy in 2015 to a role as a technical advisor. Jim Cosgrove chairs the CWC. His firm, Kleinfelder, has been a long-time member of AEA and Jim is an active member of the AEA NJPDES Committee. For more information about the CWC, click here. http://www.nj.gov/dep/
 Jackson Township MUA is an example of an authority that has managed its capital costs and debts in a balanced manner that has kept rates stable, with a minimum of increases.
 Lakewood Township MUA and Hamilton Township MUA (Atlantic County) are authorities that are useful examples of authority/municipal cooperation and collaboration.