EPA Asked To Oversee Enforcement of Permits To Prevent Sandy Failures
Gov. Christie’s Austerity Approach Accelerates Crumbling Infrastructure
In another example of hiding controversial and important policy decisions under obscure DEP website links, the Christie DEP recently posted a new “Asset Management” Guidance document.
The DEP is posting documents in dribs and drabs as part of the long delayed Water Supply Master Plan Update.
DEP apparently thinks this voluntary Guidance developed ”by invitation only” friends behind closed doors can substitute for a robust public planning process, backed by enforceable regulations and real funding mechanisms.
But buried in the weeds of that Guidance is a huge admission by DEP – Sandy exposed the fact that water and sewer facilities violated the terms of their permits and that DEP failed to monitor, inspect and enforce these permit requirements.
According to NJ’s “Sandy Recovery Plan”
“At the height of the storm, 94 wastewater treatment systems suffered failures or disruptions, including inadequate treatment, broken sewer mains, and other operational issues. The loss of electrical power rendered many water systems unable to maintain service. Even at plants where backup generation was available, the disruption of the petroleum production and delivery system caused generator fuel supplies to be limited.
The vast majority of New Jersey’s community water supply systems were impacted: 427 of 604 community water systems experienced power loss during the event. As a direct result of the service interruptions, 362,334 New Jersey residents were placed under a boil water advisory. One month after Superstorm Sandy made landfall, eight drinking water systems in Ocean County, serving approximately 10,000 households, were still subject to a boil water advisory. ”
Those severe failures were predicted and preventable.
Based on those failures, PEER requested that EPA conduct oversight and condition any future federal funding on compliance.
Get the full story, with links to the documents, from our friends at PEER:
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
CHRISTIE’S OTHER HIDDEN MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR DEFICIT
No Plan to Pay for Huge Water Infrastructure Shortfall Aggravated by Sandy
Trenton — New Jersey is facing a massive and growing financial gap in its ability to protect water supplies and infrastructure but has no plan to pay for needed improvements or prevent coming water emergencies, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). A water infrastructure deficit pegged at nearly $13 billion several years ago has now ballooned by impacts and implications of Super-Storm Sandy, sea level rise and expected extreme weather events.
An “Asset Management” Guidance document quietly posted earlier this month on the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) website is the latest placeholder for the long overdue Update of the State Water Supply Management Plan. In this Guidance, the state acknowledges that in order to safeguard drinking water supplies it must invest heavily in upgrading sewage treatment plants, controlling sewer overflows, installing backup generators and shielding other waterworks. Yet, it has no plan for doing so:
- The Statewide Water Supply Management Plan has not been updated in nearly 20 years and is based upon hydrological data from the 1980’s;
- The state admits its legal duty to “require drinking water and wastewater utilities to demonstrate that they have adequate facilities, and equipment, and that they regularly perform operation and maintenance to meet the conditions in their permits,” according to the Guidance document but has no timetable for enforcing these requirements; and
- Governor Chris Christie does not want to discuss how to pay for these heavy investments, given the tough choice of impinging on private water company profits or raising customers’ utility rates.
“Our water infrastructure deficit is a yawning fiscal sinkhole which the Christie administration wants to treat like it is merely a decorative koi pond,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former long-time DEP analyst. “The post-Sandy factors now in play make our already huge water infrastructure needs both more expensive and urgent – they will not go away.”
The state’s failure to enforce “resilience” and “asset management” requirements in DEP permits is not merely academic – it could jeopardize federal Clean Water Act funding tied to these same requirements.
Today, PEER wrote to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith Enck to inquire when resilience and asset management requirements for water infrastructure would be invoked.
The state’s continuing malaise was underlined in the April 3rd transmittal email from DEP’s Water Supply Modeling & Planning chief, Jeffrey Hoffman, on the release of its Asset Management Guidance:
“I checked and am told that it is DEP’s goal to eventually incorporate these guidelines into regulations. DEP is open to suggestions on how to improve the guidelines in order to create more effective regulations. I am not aware of any formal review process or meetings but comments are welcomed.”
“Unfortunately, our water infrastructure deficit is compounded by a leadership deficit,” added Wolfe. Pointing out that since the notoriously anti-regulatory Gov. Christie has no schedule for converting these thorny and costly voluntary standards into mandatory regulations, it is likely the problem will be left to his successor. “Ensuring healthful water supplies for New Jersey should not be just another political can kicked down the road.”
New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability