Monday, May 2, 2016

NJDEP proposes to allow more septic systems in Highlands

State agency claims new water-quality data allows for loosening of current rules; opponents argue data is flawed
The state wants to loosen up the rules governing building in the New Jersey Highlands, changes critics say will allow up to 1,100 new septic systems and more development in the preservation area.

Tom Johnson
reports today in NJ Spotlight:
The proposal, to be published today in the New Jersey Register, is based on more extensive water-quality data concerning how much building could occur in the region, which supplies drinking water to more than 5 million residents.
Conservationists view the revisions as the latest effort by the Department of Environmental Protection to roll back protections in the Highlands, coming on the heels of other proposed rule changes that also have come under fire from Highlands advocates.
The Highlands are a sprawling 860,000 acres of forested ridges and rolling farmland in northern New Jersey that was originally protected under a law enacted 12 years ago.
If adopted, the latest rule would deal with how many septic systems would be allowed in the 414,000 acres of the Highlands preservation area, an issue that led to litigation over the existing rules by the New Jersey Farm Bureau. The bureau contended that the rules lacked any scientific foundation. The new rule would increase the potential number of septic systems by 12 percent, according to the DEP.
“The proposed septic system density standards provide a common sense, science-based approach to protecting the region’s precious water supplies, while creating reasonable opportunities for economic growth and jobs,’’ said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.
Based on data collected from the U.S. Geological Survey, the agency contends the density of septic systems can be increased within the three different land-use categories in the preservation area without degrading water quality.
Critics of the proposal, however, say the data is flawed and predict it will have an adverse impact on water quality.

Read the full story here

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