Rockaway Township tells residents to boil water before drinking

ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP — Officials issued an emergency boil-water order Saturday after a disturbance in the township’s largest well led to a gray discharge in the water system.
Effective immediately, the order said homeowners should "vigorously and completely" boil any water meant for human consumption for a full minute past the moment it begins to bubble continuously.
"This is to mitigate any microbial pathogen contamination," said the order, which was released by the township water utility.
It also asked residents to conserve water, which will likely have a gray discoloration for several days until clear water flushes it from the system.
One of the town’s main wells broke Saturday as the storm approached, and water sampling and repairs will have to wait until after the weekend, Mayor Michael Puzio said.
“The problem is in the well field with a pump that appears to have a hole in the casing, creating a stirring effect for sediments, which is why the water appears to be cloudy,” said Township Council President Tucker Kelley.
“Tomorrow a contracted company will come to scope the line.” The utility is working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to determine what caused the issues and what measures will fix it, the order said.
Updates will be posted to the town’s website.
Puzio said the testing and repairs will take place regardless of Monday’s holiday.
Report coming soon

Investigate Vernon dirt dumping for any threat to water

The Highlands Act was enacted in 2004 with a stated primary purpose of safeguarding the precious freshwater supply for millions of New Jersey residents.
The legislation governs the 800,000-acre Highlands Region, which "is a vital source of drinking water for more than half of New Jersey’s families," the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says on its website, "yielding approximately 379 million gallons of water daily."
So it is extremely puzzling that the state DEP is not more concerned and responsive regarding possible contamination from a large-scale dirt dumping operation in Vernon, which lies within the Highlands Region.
Despite pleas from local, state and federal officials, the DEP is satisfied that, despite photographic proof to the contrary, the reported dumping that has been estimated at over 75 feet high has "de minimis (minimal) amounts of brick and block in the fill and possible traces of asphalt."
That assessment contradicts the observations of neighbors and several officials including U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who had requested the DEP "to consider the solid waste I have seen with my own eyes."
In August, Gottheimer urged the DEP to conduct core sampling and laboratory testing of the dirt pile on Silver Spruce Drive to make sure any runoff does not pose a risk to nearby wells and groundwater.
Earlier this month, results of an independent laboratory’s test of groundwater believed by a neighbor to be seeping from the site onto his own property and into nearby wetlands showed levels of lead more than 15 times greater than the limit allowed by the DEP.
If the sightings and photographs of metal piping, rebar, chunks of asphalt and concrete block are not enough to suggest that the fill is not as clean as the DEP would have us believe — the DEP went as far as to say it was "clear" (to them, at least) that the material was not construction or demolition wastes — then surely elevated levels of lead in runoff presumably from the site would spur the DEP into action.
Given the focus and intent on protecting the source of drinking water for more than 5.4 million people, it is prudent, even pressing, that the DEP conduct more extensive testing, not only of this site, but of other questionable dumping sites, before any or more contamination of the water occurs.
As Vernon Mayor Harry Shortway wrote in a letter to the editor published here where he implored the county and state for help in investigating and halting the suspected dangerous activity, "Stop it now or drink it later."

EPA awards $84.5M to NJ for water infrastructure

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it has awarded nearly $84.5 million to New Jersey to help finance water infrastructure projects.
The funds will primarily be used to upgrade wastewater and drinking water systems throughout the state.
EPA awarded $65,589,000 to the New Jersey Clean Water State Revolving Fund program and $18,957,000 to the New Jersey Drinking Water Revolving Fund program.
These programs are administrated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and its financing program, the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank.
These awards, plus a 20 percent state match and repayments from prior CWSRF and DWSRF loans and interest earnings and bond issuances, will enable the financing of up to about $450 million of clean water and drinking water infrastructure projects in New Jersey, the EPA said.
“Working with our state and local partners to ensure our communities have affordable access to clean drinking water remains a critical priority for EPA,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez in a statement.
“We are pleased to provide significant funding as part of our overall efforts to help New Jersey meet its critical water infrastructure needs.” Based on estimates from the U.S. Water Alliance, New Jersey’s CWSRF and DWSRF programs have the potential to create approximately 7,000 jobs.

DEP head talks water contamination, fracking, and funding during sit down with newspaper

From the plugging of abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania’s mining regions, to responding to drinking water contamination in the Philadelphia suburbs, to overseeing new natural gas pipelines throughout the state, the Department of Environmental Protection has a lot of priorities to cover but not always enough resources, secretary Patrick McDonnell said recently.
McDonnell said earlier this month the department approved an increase in drinking water fees to pay for new staff in its drinking water safety program.
Now, the program receives about $20 million from the state’s “Act 13” money, which comes from impact fees on natural gas extraction.
“But that’s (only) funding half the program,” McDonnell said.
“One of the conversations we’ll be having here over the next year or two is how we fund that going forward, and what those programs look like.” Resources are also needed to plug as many as half a million abandoned oil and gas wells, some of them existing from the 19th century.
He said lawmakers in Harrisburg seemed to support the proposal during early budget hearings, but that nothing is certain.
That’s a question I wouldn’t be able to answer.” Asked about the most significant issues in the southeast region, McDonnell and Patterson turned first to ongoing perfluorinted chemical water contamination in Bucks and Montgomery counties.
If the state were to make a limit lower than the one recommended by the EPA, it could affect the actions the military would have to take in addressing regional drinking water contamination.
Patterson said the state may try and base its cleanup requirements off the 70 part per trillion drinking water safety limit recommended by the EPA.
An major ongoing concern are potential cuts to EPA funding, which in turn could trickle down to states that receive money from the agency to run delegated programs, such as those for air pollution and clean drinking water.

DEP Announces Change for Drought Warning Status for Union County

Union County has moved from a drought warning to a drought watch.
DEP encourages a voluntary water use reduction of five percent.
“Residents may wonder why some counties on drought watch haven’t been returned to normal status,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
“Although recent rainfall has, in the short term, put stream flows at normal or even higher than normal levels in these counties, groundwater levels have been lingering below normal.
DEP suggests several steps citizens can take to voluntarily reduce their water use: • Run water only when necessary.
Don’t let the faucet run while brushing your teeth or shaving.
• Run the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads.
• Check for household leaks.
A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day.
• Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets.