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DEP holds first public hearing on statewide water supply plan

7-11-17

By Briana Vannozzi
Correspondent

Does NJ have enough water to meet future needs. The state Department of Environmental Protection concludes it does provided the state replaces the state’s aging pipes and begins to conserve. The long overdue water supply plan is now before the public. NJTV News Correspondent Briana Vannozzi is in Trenton at this first public hearing.

This is the first of four public hearings for feedback on DEP’s plan and so far it hasn’t been very positive at least from the perspective of environmental advocates, they see this as more of a status update rather than a strategic plan to meet the needs of our water supply and the whole point of this is to ensure New Jersey has enough drinking water in the case of a severe drought. By law, every five years New Jersey is supposed to update this plan, you know how things can go in Trenton, it hasn’t been updated since 1996. Overall, the report found that water use per person is going down, that’s a good thing but it also found that the use of water sheds withdrawing from water sheds could put them in what they call a stress mode, meaning that we are taking too much out. As you mentioned, if we invest in critical infrastructure in conservation working with farmers and management plans for the Highlands and Pinelands, we would be in good shape, but critics today pointed out that the DEP use data that is more than ten years old, they also didn’t account for things like climate change, the rising sea level, and they also pointed out that parts of the plan were flawed. They say that this is only projecting for the next five years were previous plans looked outward to 20 to 30 years ahead, and environmentalists say that this is downplaying what is a very severe problem for our water supply needs.

“In the last 20 years, six reservoirs in New Jersey closed because they are too polluted to take water from. More than 1,000 wells have been closed because they are too polluted and yet they don’t address any of that,” said Director of NJ Sierra Club, Jeff Tittel.

“If you have water but it’s not safe to drink, you don’t have water. That’s true whether you live in Flint, Michigan it’s true whether you live in Newark,” said Director of Police Raritan Headwaters, Bill Kibler.

“Unfortunately, for some people don’t feel like they go far enough in their recommendations and we will try to do better on that in the future. We are trying to make a framework to have them do their own plans and strategies,” said NJ State Geologist, Jeff Hoffman.

Many people did thank the DEP for even putting out a plan at all, it wasn’t even anticipated under this administration. The next meetings will be held tomorrow in Millburn and Thursday at Stockton University. The public can send a written comment on July 21 and the DEP did tell me today that they really weigh that input considerably for finalizing a plan.