NJ could let towns charge for water runoff to prevent flooding
New Jersey lawmakers are taking another stab at reviving a bill that would create new utilities to deal with stormwater. It's the state's most persistent problem fouling waterways and causing major flooding.
New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation with many roadways that cannot absorb water after a storm, said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.
He says runoff picks up toxins and pollutants. In New Jersey, the problem is magnified where sewer water mixes with rain water. When storms occur, rainwater runs off the roads, roofs and parking lots into sewer systems, carrying debris, bacteria and chemicals.
So the Senate Environment and Energy Committee is reviving a bill that would allow municipalities to create stormwater utilities — an approach used in other states such as California and Florida.
Potosnak says stormwater utilities can limit pollution caused by runoff in two ways. It would reduce the amount of stormwater runoff and cleans the water.
Potosnak said it would also reduce flooding.
In Newark, homeowners are paying to clean up the runoff from parking lots and streets.
A stormwater utility would be able to charge the parking lot owner for the water that's running off.
"I'm hoping with the legislation to invest in things like green infrastructure, which will put nature in the front lines of doing the cleanup and attenuation to keep the stormwater from leaving and causing the flooding," says Potosnak.
The bill has failed to win final legislative approval in the past.
Former Gov. Chris Christie was not supportive of the stormwater utility model even when it was presented for the Barnegat Bay, which is affected by polluted runoff. But Potosnak says now there's a new governor and a new legislation.