Environmental groups and some New Jersey elected officials are warning that proposed funding cuts to the federal Environmental Protection Agency would have a devastating effect on drinking water in the Garden State.

The budget proposed by President Trump, which will be considered by Congress next month, calls for a 31 percent cut for the EPA, about $2.5 billion.

During a news conference at the Statehouse in Trenton, Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, said a new report titled "Rough Waters Ahead, the Impact of the Trump Administration’s EPA Budget Cuts on the Delaware River Basin" finds if proposed cuts are adopted, water-related programs run directly by the EPA would be slashed by 34 percent, hobbling efforts to prevent runoff pollution, monitor water quality, establish pollution limits, protect watersheds and wetlands and go after polluters.

The report, prepared by Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center, also finds many federal grants from the EPA to New Jersey and other state governments for clean water would be cut by 30 percent of more, making it more difficult for the New Jersey DEP to do its job.

Additionally, the report finds research and development funding would be slashed by 37 percent, limiting support for scientific work on the ever-changing threats facing waterways.

O’Malley said the proposed cuts would be disastrous.

Doug O'Malley, David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ

“We are looking at beyond draconian cuts for the EPA that are going to have catastrophic impacts for New Jersey’s environment, and for the watersheds in the Delaware,” he said.

“For water pollution control grants, a million dollars less, we’re looking at nonpoint pollution control grants losing $ 2.5 million, but most importantly we’re also looking at more than 50 million dollars from the state clean water revolving fund,” he said.

He stressed “at the end of the day this money is about the quality of our drinking water and the ability to ensure EPA can do its job and New Jersey DEP can do its job.”

O’Malley said slashing funding for the EPA will not only have a negative impact on drinking water.

“We have the most Superfund sites in the country. We’re looking at a 25 percent cut. That means we’re going to lose funding to be able to clean up Superfund sites in a timely manner," he said.

He stressed funding cuts for the EPA would also mean cuts for the New Jersey DEP.

“Across the board, this is not cutting off fat. This is going right to the bone, and this is going to hurt the mission of EPA not only in the Delaware River basin but also the entire state,” he said.

He said funding cuts on drinking water supplies would be very significant.

“We’re going to see industrial pollution in our waterways. We’re going to see a reduction in enforcement, so that’s going to mean less environmental cops on the beat and it’s going to mean more pollution," he said.

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12) said if the proposed cuts are adopted it going to be “out the window with science, out the window with the environment, out the window with common sense.”

She said many members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, already believe these and other proposed cuts could be disastrous for “keeping our water and our air safe, preserving and protecting our monuments, and I’m talking about our parks and mountains and places of that nature.”

She said there is a clear need “for activists across this state and this country to be standing up and saying, 'No, we’re not going to tolerate this.'”

Jaclyn Rhoads, the assistant executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, agreed, saying “what people don’t realize is cuts to the EPA could mean contamination to their drinking water.”

O’Malley said “these are bread and butter environmental issues, about what’s coming out of our tap, what’s in our air and what’s in our ground.”

“We’re raising the alarm, because now we’re really in a world of hurt if these cuts go forward, and that’s why we’re rallying this issue today.”

Other environmental leaders and officials attending the news conference included:

Assemblywoman Liz Muoio D-Pennington
Zach McCue, a spokesman for U.S. Senator Cory Booker
Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club
Drew Tompkins, NJ League of Conservation Voters
Elliott Ruga, NJ Highlands Coalition
Alyssa Bradley, Clean Water Action
Deb Coyle, NJ Work Environment Council
Richard Lawton, NJ Sustainable Business Council

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com