LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Long Hill sewer sale will benefit our environment
Published October 15, 2019 – Echoes Sentinel/NJ Hills Media
EDITOR: As environmental advocates, we have a duty to raise an important, but overlooked, aspect of the Long Hill sewer sale referendum. The proposed sewer rate cuts, debt payoff, and so forth are all excellent reasons to vote for the sale, yet an equally critical point is the impact of our current sewer system on the Passaic River.
As trustees of the Great Swamp Watershed Association, we want to provide environmental education to the public. We can confidently say that the sewer system is being pushed to its breaking point. Frequent, heavy rains often overload Long Hill’s treatment plant. The system simply doesn’t have the capacity to treat the excess rainwater, so raw or partially treated sewage ends up being spilled back into the Passaic River, which is a critical source of drinking water for our region. This could have serious consequences for the health of our community.
New Jersey American Water has the means and the knowledge to not only repair and upgrade our system, but also to connect septic system users to the public sewer system. The sale will also save us residents from the tax burden of any future violation fines from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, which cannot be far off given the poor state of our system.
Some skeptics have already called into question the veracity of our environmental concerns. The township website, where you will find a letter from the DEP from May 2017 which states that our treatment plant has “reached or exceeded 95 percent of its permitted flow.” As a result, the township hired an outside engineering firm, who found that our existing filters can only handle a maximum flow of 2.8 million gallons per day (mgd). In reality, flows at the Long Hill plant can exceed 4.4mgd, which means excess flow bypasses filters and enters the Passaic River.
We encourage people to look at the facts provided by not only the NJDEP, but outside professional firms who have assessed our system and our own wastewater experts in town. It is irresponsible to make judgements purely based on how the treatment plant looks.
Government should not be in the business of providing water and sewer or electricity. We should leave things to the experts that are good at them. NJAW are those experts, and they’ve been providing Long Hill with water service for over a century. They know what they’re doing, and they can probably do it more efficiently, effectively, and for less money.
The sale to NJAW makes sense for our wallets, but more importantly, it puts the health of our community as a top priority. As advocates for the environment, we want to see our community thrive, not just survive. It is our responsibility to make the right choice on election day and ensure that Long Hill will remain a healthy community for years to come.
KATHY and ALAN PFEIL