When sewage flows into NJ water, there’s no notice — yet
When heavy rains drenched the region through the end of last week, New York residents received real-time alerts on sewage overflows into public waterways.
New Jerseyans have no such accommodations — at least for now. We have to wait until summer.
July is the deadline for towns and sewage authorities in New Jersey to get notification systems in place. Residents will be able to check on any sewage overflows due to pipes that can’t handle the volume during rain events.
The federal government estimates 23 billion gallons of raw sewage and polluted storm water are discharged into New Jersey’s rivers and bays each year through more than 200 outfall pipes.
“Most folks don’t realize that we have combined sewer systems in New Jersey, and that when we have a rainfall event, raw sewage is released directly into the water bodies that they’re kayaking or fishing or swimming in,” said Debbie Mans, executive director of NY/NJ Baykeeper.
Mans said this cycle results in a public safety risk because the pollutants carry “high levels of bacteria and viruses” that can make people ill.
The mandate from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which also calls for improvements to limit the amount of sewage overflows, requires a hotline or website that informs residents of sewage spills.
According to a DEP spokesman, towns can choose to alert residents by email or text, but it’s not a requirement. A reverse 911 call is another option, but that could cause more panic than anything else, the DEP said.