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DEP Press Office: Run By Twisted Freaks

August 27th, 2014 No comments

Attempt To Divert From Hurricane Risks Is Deeply Offensive

[Update below - Gov. Christie's PR team also tried to change the subject]

Hurricane Cristobal is moving up the Atlantic Coast, and experts are warning the public about dangerous rip tides, which killed a man in nearby Ocean City, Maryland.

A teenaged swimmer is drown right here in NJ, at Sandy Hook.

Tragically, it just so happens that the youth was swimming in an area not guarded by lifeguards.

So, just hours later, fully aware of the situation and the risks to the NJ shore, what does the DEP press office do?

They issue a self serving press release LIFEGUARDED BATHING AREA TO BE OPEN AT ISLAND BEACH STATE PARKtouting extended openings of Island Beach State Park, with a backhanded allusion to the dangers of swimming in areas unprotected by lifeguards:

The weather and the water are still warm and our attendance remains high in September,” said Richard Boornazian, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources. “By having our skilled lifeguard team at Island Beach State Park for long weekends throughout the month, visitors can more safely enjoy the water and experience an extended summer on our beautiful beaches.”

As is the case throughout the summer, swimming in unguarded beaches at any location at Island Beach State Park is strictly prohibited.

That is beyond oblivious and insensitive – its just flat out twisted.

We understand that a press office’s role is to divert media from bad news and vulnerabilities.

We realize that Gov. Christie’s Sandy stagecoach has turned back into a pumpkin, and that the press and the public now realize that NJ is highly vulnerable to hurricanes – and that Gov. Christie has done nothing to reduce those risks and vulnerabilities.

We know that another hurricane brings back the trauma of Sandy.

We know that DEP is being harshly criticized for proposing a major new coastal management rule that fails to address sea level rise and climate change, and actually promotes new development in hazardous locations.

So, of course, the DEP press office is desperate to deflect media and public attention away from all this bad news.

But, to do so at the expense of the loss of human life is truly warped.

Update:

Gov. Christie’s press office is equally twisted -

Yesterday, again fully aware of Hurricane Cristobal’s existence and ability to highlight unresolved risks and issues for the NJ shore, the Gov.’s press office issued this release obviously designed to change the subject of hurricane risks to the Shore, touting Sandy buyouts.

Of course, the lapdog Star Ledger State House reporter uncritically transcribed it in this story.

At this point, when the situation is so obvious, for the media to do that amounts to journalistic malpractice. – end update.]

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DEP Illegal Disposal Enforcement “Crackdown”: Self Serving Hypocrisy

August 26th, 2014 No comments

 DEP Cares More About Press PR Than Park Conditions

garbage illegally dumped along D&R Canal State Park path on Duck Island (8/26/14)

garbage illegally dumped along D&R Canal State Park path on Duck Island (8/26/14)

You’d think DEP would at least clean up the mess BEFORE they issue the self serving press release about the mess.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Earlier today, the screaming headline of DEP’s press release immediately caught my eye: SIX MORE CHARGED IN DEP CRACKDOWN TO COMBAT ILLEGAL DUMPING ON STATE LANDS.

For the first time I can recall, DEP actually bragged that one of the alleged violators (or are they evil doers?) had already been deported to Guatemala and another was facing jail time for failure to appear in court to answer the DEP summons (this was for a minor littering violation, not illegal disposal).

Wow. Imagine that. Jail time and deportation for littering in NJ state parks. That Christie DEP must have an enforcement hard-on, right?

Wrong.

You mean the Christie Administration, who has surrendered the enforcement stick and has the worst enforcement record in the history of DEP – with enforcement fines, inspections, and violations down by as much as 90% - is actually enforcing environmental laws?

The DEP that just indefinitely extended the enforcement shut down order for the BL England coal power plant?

The administration that took no enforcement action for a toxic spill that hospitalized scores of people and forced evacuation of a town?

The Administration that wants to rehabilitate the State’s unrepentant worst wetlands violator and ideological foe of environmental regulation and enforcement to sit on the Pinelands Commission?

The DEP that paid convicted felons to haul Sandy debris and issued DEP permits to a convicted felon to create the Fenimore landfill fiasco?

The DEP that itself illegally dumped waste on Bulls Island State Park – and then lied to the press and then even lied to the US Army Corps of Engineers about it – sees no hypocrisy in cracking down on illegal dumping on State Lands?

You mean the DEP with this kind of enforcement record is OK with people being deported and serving jail time for merely littering?

Wow – I gotta see that.

Since I live just 5-6 miles south of the Duck Island portion of the D&R Canal State Park where some of these these major crimes occurred, I immediately hopped on my bike, camera in tow, to visit the scene of the crime and check it out.

I quite reasonably figured if DEP were cracking down on illegal disposal in State Parks, perhaps they also might be interested in using that enforcement power to improve the conditions of the park for the people and wildlife that use it.

What I saw might surprise you. Put simply, I was wrong.

The segment of the D&R Canal Park from Trenton to Bordentown is neglected by DEP.

It runs parallel to I-295, adjacent to the Trenton-Hamilton marsh, past the PSEG Duck Island power plant, the City of Trenton’s sewage treatment plant, oil depots, landfills, and toxic waste sites. The canal path also provides an easement for a major pipeline to fuel the PSEG plant.

Portions of the canal are so sedimented and overgrown that the canal no longer flows. The water is stagnant and covered by bright green algae scum.

I saw dozens of tires and a boat dumped in the Canal. A tree was down, totally blocking the path.

dozens of tires illegally dumped in D&R Canal remain for years.

dozens of tires illegally dumped in D&R Canal remain for years.

It is a mess.

These horrible conditions would never be tolerated in the Hunterdon and Somerset County portions of the D&R canal path.

So, since DEP apparently lacks the resources and or will to remedy these conditions, PSEG should adopt the D&R Canal segment that runs past their Duck Island power plant, from Trenton to the Bordentown marina.

That is a roughly 5 mile neglected portion of the D&R Canal Park. (additional photos in next post).

PSEG should do that as a good corporate neighbor, but especially in light of the huge subsidies and multi-million dollar sweetheart deals they have enjoyed from DEP park land easements (take a look at PSEG easements in just D&R Canal State Park).

PEER blew the whistle multiple times on financial audits of DEP that showed below market leases and easements across state lands for highly profitable industrial uses like oil and gas pipelines. (see this and this and this).

I wrote about this set of issues numerous times:

The legislature responded by passing a law mandating that DEP leases reflect full market value:

4. a. The Department of Environmental Protection shall conduct, within six months after the effective date of this act, a study of the facilities, services, resources, activities, and amenities provided, or which reasonably could be provided, at each State park or forest as defined in subsection e. of section 3 of P.L.1983, c.324 (C.13:1L-3).  As part of the study, the department shall:

(2)   conduct a re-appraisal of the rents and fees charged for all residences and other buildings and structures, and for utility easements and right-of-ways, located on State park or forest lands to ensure they reflect current fair market values and will continue to do so;

But DEP has ignored that law, still has not renegotiated existing leases, and their policy on new leases also fails to recoup full market value.

So, here’s what PSEG should agree to do for the segment of the Canal path that runs by their facility and provides an easement for a pipeline to their facility:

  • provide a new trail surface
  • dredge and cleanup the Canal, enabling it (and canoes and kayaks) to flow freely to the Delaware River and Hamilton marsh
  • restore damage to stream banks that are tributaries to Crosswicks Creek & Trenton Marsh
  • fund a routine maintenance program
  • fund or install interpretive signs and benches every 1/2 mile

We will be petitioning PSEG and DEP to implement this kind of restoration program – more to follow on that.

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NJ’s Little Known But Massive Wastewater Recycling Water Supply Project

August 26th, 2014 No comments

Passaic Basin Provides 475 Million Gallons Per Day of Mostly Treated Sewage For NJ Water Supply

NJ DEP Silent On or Misleading Public About A Controversial Practice

Passaic Basin Sewage treatment plants that discharge to water supply rivers (Source: NJ DEP)

Passaic Basin Sewage treatment plants that discharge to water supply rivers (Source: NJ DEP)

My trip to California got me thinking about the epic drought there and the various mitigation strategies being considered, including the reuse of wastewater.

Reuse of treated wastewater (e.g. the discharge from sewage treatment plants) is a controversial topic, even for relatively minor uses, like irrigation of golf courses or non-food crops.

The concept of using treated sewage for public water supply is virtually an unspoken taboo.

So, I thought readers would be interested in exploring the implications of the fact that NJ, for decades, has relied on a massive wastewater reuse project - for drinking water – in the Passaic Basin, including the Ramapo, Pompton, and Passaic Rivers.

During dry periods and summer months, the flows of those river are dominated by wastewater discharges – at times over 90% of the rivers’ flow comes from wastewater treatment plants. The water supply infrastructure is designed to rely on wastewater discharge.

And the Passaic Basin is not the only place where NJ residents are drinking million of gallons a day of treated sewage.

Water supply intakes located on the Delaware and Raritan rivers, among others, also rely on significant flows of treated wastewater.

But, you would not know any of that by listening to Highlands advocates or by reading NJ DEP’s “wastewater reuse” webpage, which explicitly claims that reuse is limited to “non-potable applications”:

Over the past few years, the Division of Water Quality Reclaimed Water for Beneficial Reuse Task Force has been working to promote and implement the beneficial reuse of wastewater from domestic and industrial wastewater dischargers. RWBR involves taking what was once considered waste, giving it specialized treatment, if necessary, and using it for public and/or restricted access uses. This high quality reclaimed water can be used for non-potable applications in place of potable water or as a supplement to potable water. RWBR has a myriad of application potentials including the spray irrigation of crops, parks, and golf courses; dust control; fire fighting; and toilet flushing, to list a few. The high-level of disinfection and effluent treatment required for RWBR protects public health and environmental quality.

Does discharge and dilution of wastewater in a river alter the fact that the wastewater is “recycled” or “reclaimed” and “reused” at downriver water supply intakes? Even when wastewater is 50% or more of river flow? 90%?

Perhaps if DEP released the long overdue Update of the NJ Waster Supply Master Plan, we could have a public discussion about these controversial practices.

That discussion would include whether we should upgrade wastewater treatment technology to protect drinking water intakes, instead of weakening surface water quality standards as DEP is currently considering, as NJ Spotlight recently reported:

Bill Wolfe, New Jersey director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (NJPEER), said the DEP’s proposed new approach fails to consider the ecological impacts of nitrogen on waterways.

“It ignores longstanding historical policy of ‘source water protection’ — that the policy burden on the wastewater dischargers is to protect water supplies — and shifts quite a bit of the cost and compliance burden onto the water purveyors,’’ Wolfe said.

In the Passaic River, there are 72 sewage plants discharging into the waterway, which supplies potable water to millions of customers in the region, according to Tittel. In the Raritan River, there are 60 such plants discharging into the river, also a major source of drinking water, he said.

That discussion would also include whether we should upgrade drinking water treatment technology given the large amount of wastewater discharged to water supply rivers and the hundreds of unregulated chemicals detected in these rivers we rely on to provide drinking water supply.

Trenton — New Jersey should filter its drinking water to remove hundreds of chemicals, most of which are unregulated, from its drinking water supply, according to a rulemaking petition filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The plan to screen many chemicals out of tap water was actually developed by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) but has been in limbo for the last six years.

State testing has detected “approximately 600” chemical compounds “in 199 samples collected” including five brands of bottled water, according to a recent DEP white paper. The vast majority of these chemicals, including pharmaceuticals, hormones, and cleaning products, are not regulated by either the federal or state government. As a result, there is no regulatory effort to reduce or eliminate them from drinking water.

The April 2010 DEP white paper, entitled “Investigations Related to a ‘Treatment-Based’ Regulatory Approach to Address Unregulated Contaminants in Drinking Water,” advocates used granular activated carbon filtration and other techniques to remove most chemicals in drinking water, noting that carbon filtration alone removed more than half of identified chemicals.

The discussion also might consider not only the serious adverse health effects of these largely unregulated chemicals on people, but on fish and wildlife, particularly in light of recent news reports of “intersex fish” in the Delaware River.

  • Reuse of wastewater for drinking water in the Passaic Basin

But let’s get back to the topic of this post, which is the effective reuse of wastewater for drinking water.

According to the DEP TMDL Non-Tidal Passaic River Basin, which was designed to protect the Wanaque Reservoir:

At the confluence of the Pompton and Passaic Rivers, the Wanaque South intake diverts water into the Wanaque Reservoir. Water diverted at this location can, depending on pumping relative to stream flows, include both the Pompton and Passaic Rivers. As a result, phosphorus loads from both waterbodies can be directed to the reservoir, where they accumulate and cycle within the impoundment creating the opportunity for excessive primary productivity over the growing season. High levels of chlorophyll-a have been observed in the Wanaque Reservoir, although measured levels are lower than they would be naturally due to physical and chemical control measures exercised by NJDWSC.

To maintain this yield, the Wanaque Reservoir utilizes inflows from three separate sources: (1) its natural tributary system, which includes the Monksville Reservoir; (2) the Pompton Lakes intake, which is located on the Ramapo River; and (3) the Two Bridges intake, which is located on the Pompton River about 750 feet upstream from the confluence with the Passaic River. The NJDWSC has the capability of pumping up to 150 mgd from the Pompton Lakes intake, and up to 250 mgd from the Two Bridges intake. By design, when the diversion from the Two Bridges intake exceeds the available flow in the Pompton River, this intake has the ability to reverse flows in the lowermost reach of the Pompton River and tap the locally impounded waters of the Passaic River. Thus, the entire upper Passaic watershed (with a drainage area of 361 square miles) becomes a contributing source to the Reservoir. To maintain water quality and protect users in the downstream portions of the Passaic, Pompton and Ramapo Rivers, the Department has implemented several restrictions on intake usage, including:

(a) no diversions during July and August unless there is a declared drought emergency; (b) no diversions from the Pompton Lakes intake when flows in the Ramapo River are below 40 mgd; and (c) no diversions when flows in the Passaic River at Little Falls are below 17.6 mgd (modified from Najarian (2005)

  • Passaic Valley Water Supply Intake 

But the pumping of polluted river water to the Wanaque Reservoir is not the only reuse of wastewater in the Passaic Basin.

According to the Passaic Valley Water Commission

The current plant, operated by the Passaic Valley Water Commission, delivers approximately 60 million gallons per day of Passaic and Pompton River water to a population of more than 750,000.  [...]

The Little Falls plant is now the largest ballasted flocculation plant in North America. With a capacity upgrade from 75 MGD to 120 MGD

So there it is.

NJ residents are drinking almost 500 million gallons per day of treated wastewater.

So, I put the questions to those folks:

  • Should DEP be strengthening water quality standards and regulating more chemicals to protect your drinking water?
  • Should DEP be requiring that wastewater plants upgrade their treatment technology to remove more chemical pollutants?
  • Should DEP be requiring that drinking water plants install state of the art activated carbon treatment technology to remove unregulated chemicals?
  • How much are you willing to pay for safe and clean drinking water?

Gov. Christie’s DEP Commissioner wants to provide “regulatory relief” to those drinking water and sewage treatment plants – what do you think about that?

Let the Gov. and your legislator know.

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Places (Part 6 of 6)

August 24th, 2014 No comments

Half Moon Bay

half moon bay

Golden Gate

golden gate

fogged in

fogged in

Mount Tamalpais

above the fog bank

above the fog bank

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tamal3

tamal4

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Marin – Olema

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Proud to be a hippie in Olema, California, Planet Earth!

Proud to be a hippie in Olema, California, Planet Earth!

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Places (Part 5)

August 24th, 2014 No comments

Los Padres National Forest

is that a campsite, or what?

is that a campsite, or what?

view from the campsite

view from the campsite 

Sequoia National Park

Kaweah River Bridge - Mineral King Valley

Kaweah River Bridge – Mineral King Valley

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Atwell Mill campsite - superb

Atwell Mill campsite – superb

 Eagle Lake Hike

This was one of the best hikes I’ve ever done – 2200 feet elevation gain over 4 miles to the 10,000+ foot Eagle Lake:

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high elevation meadow, just below the lake

high elevation meadow, just below the lake

after strenuous climb, a final 900 foot rock scramble to the top. Exhausting! But well worth the effort.

after strenuous climb, a final 900 foot (elevation) almost vertical rock scramble to the top. Exhausting! But well worth the effort.

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lovely pool to plunge in!

lovely pool to plunge in!

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Next: Half Moon Bay, Golden Gate, Mt. Tamalpais, & Olema

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