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Bayonne Water Guardians, Kearny AWAKE and Harrison TIDE Champion Green Initiatives

April 18th, 2018 by

Harrison High School students and New Jersey Watershed Ambassadors with finished rain barrels.

Cities across New Jersey, particularly those with combined sewer overflows (CSOs), are tackling the critical issue of aging water infrastructure. New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit in 2015 that requires CSO communities to come up with a plan to reduce or eliminate overflows by 2020. New Jersey Future has been working with three CSO communities – Bayonne, Kearny, and Harrison – to implement green infrastructure (GI) practices and environmental education. Green infrastructure practices capture stormwater by mimicking the natural water cycle, preventing it from entering the combined sewer systems and thus reducing overflows.

Each city has created a Municipal Action Team: Harrison TIDE (Transforming Infrastructure and Defending our Environment), Kearny AWAKE (Association of Water, Agriculture And Kearny’s Environment), and Bayonne Water Guardians. These teams, to quote Harrison TIDE’s mission statement, are community-based efforts to “improve water quality and the quality of life of residents by addressing combined sewer and stormwater pollution, flooding, and economic development through identifying opportunities to implement green infrastructure, engage community members in educational programming, and public outreach.” Each group has representation from its municipal government, community, businesses, green infrastructure experts, academic institutions, local utilities and nonprofits. The groups create educational opportunities and distribute informative materials to residents on CSO and GI practices.

Harrison High School students learning how to construct a rain barrel.

Harrison TIDE is building on its successful rain-garden installation, which was completed on Oct. 28, 2017. The group held a rain-barrel workshop for students from Harrison High School’s environmental club on April 13, 2018. The students made rain barrels and learned about how reducing stormwater runoff can help control pollution that flows into our rivers and streams. Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission donated all of the barrels, kits and tools, and Harrison TIDE volunteers along with a team of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Watershed Ambassadors led the workshop. The rain barrels will be distributed as part of Harrison’s annual Earth Day celebration on April 21, 2018. You can learn more about Harrison TIDE on the town’s website or the group’s Facebook page.

On March 24, 2018, Kearny AWAKE organized a community meet-and-greet event at the Kearny Library. Through a presentation conducted by Julia Bresnan, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Region 4 Watershed Ambassador, 40 attendees learned about ways they could help protect Kearny’s waterways and environment, and how to reduce pollution. Residents had the opportunity to purchase a rain barrel and kit for as little as $10, which they can install on their private property. Rain barrels are affordable GI systems that are easy to set up and can collect gallons of water during a single rain event. The water collected can be used for outdoor watering or car washing. The group is planning a second workshop for June 2 that will include a tour of Kearny Point, which has a large GI installation; a visit to Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farming enterprise that is opening a garden center at Kearny Point; and a rain barrel workshop. You can learn more about Kearny AWAKE on its Facebook page.

Community outreach efforts in Bayonne have already resulted in a workshop for developers on green infrastructure and a presentation on the CSO permit and green infrastructure to local businesses as part of the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce event series. Bayonne Water Guardians will be hosting a rain-barrel workshop on May 23, 2018, at the Bayonne Museum. Attendees at this event will be able to enter into a raffle to receive a free rain barrel!

Community engagement plays a critical part in addressing CSO challenges and improving water quality. Over the past year, Harrison, Kearny, and Bayonne have successfully engaged a diversity of stakeholders, including representatives from environmental groups, businesses, academics, local governments, and nonprofits, in a variety of green infrastructure and environmental education programs. Through these community engagement initiatives, residents have gained an understanding of the opportunities and challenges to reducing CSOs and have been empowered to develop and implement the innovative solutions that their community needs.

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