Milestone: Camden County’s Proposed Wastewater Service Areas Published for Review
April 24th, 2012 by Chris Sturm
The following was co-authored with assistance from New Jersey Future intern Christopher Cavaiola.
Camden County’s proposed Future Wastewater Service Area map was posted for public notice in the New Jersey Register on April 16, and on the DEP Watershed Management website yesterday, making Camden the first full county to near adoption of an updated sewer service area under the 2008 Water Quality Management Plan (WQMP) rule.
This milestone matters because Camden’s sewer service areas (SSAs) delineate where sewers are in the ground or can be built, which in turn largely dictates where development occurs. (Outside the SSAs, reliance on septic systems allows only low-density development.)
The update meets a primary requirement of the DEP’s 2008 WQMP rule that seeks to protect water quality. In addition to requiring the sewer service areas to exclude large environmentally sensitive areas, the rule limits development intensity to what sewer treatment plants and natural systems can handle. However, implementing all of the rule provisions has been difficult and controversial, and progress has been slow. This past winter, the Gov. Christie signed legislation that required submission of the SSA updates within 180 days, but provided a two-year deadline extension for most other requirements.
Camden County’s proposed sewer service areas cover 86,212 acres, or 60% of the county’s land area. The proposed area is 14,021 acres smaller than the county’s pre-existing SSAs; environmentally sensitive areas along river and stream corridors, contiguous freshwater wetlands, upland forest habitat and an area containing the headwaters of the Great Egg Harbor River have all been removed, as have some areas based on local planning initiatives; other areas have been added based on local planning initiatives. The proposal is subject to public comment and review.
New Jersey Future has been following the wastewater planning process closely because of its impact on where and how growth occurs. The SSA updates will likely affect where state government directs development incentives, since it is expected that the State Strategic Plan will include access to sewer service as one of the essential criteria for identifying growth areas.
New Jersey Future is preparing a fact sheet on each county’s proposed Future Wastewater Service Area that will include links to the public notice (with information on the rule requirements and the public comment process) and to a map of the proposed SSA, a general description of the proposed SSA, future anticipated wastewater planning activities, and contacts for more information.
Several other counties and a handful of municipalities have submitted proposed Future Wastewater Service Areas to comply with the 2008 WQMP rule that are expected to be publicly noticed in the New Jersey Register shortly. Updates in other jurisdictions, including Monmouth County, parts of Essex and Union counties (the Joint Meeting of Essex and Union), and parts of Bergen County, are proceeding under the 1989 WQMP rule. A proposal for Ridgewood, Bergen County, has been approved as compliant with the 2008 rule; a proposal for Washington Township, Morris County, can be found on the DEP Watershed Management website.