New wave of green projects could help preserve the Barnegat Bay
Asbury Park Press (NJ), 2014-02-21
Feb. 21--TOMS RIVER -- From Barnegat Bay to Camden's inner city, green infrastructure -- public works projects that use nature to reduce pollution -- are part of a new wave that could rival the pioneering 19th century movement that brought public water and sewer pipes to cities, experts said at a Thursday forum at Ocean County College.
"It's cost effective. It creates jobs. It's good for communities," said Joan Leary Matthews, director of the clean water division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 2 office in New York City. "Cholera, one of the plagues of the 19th century, was knocked out" by the new city clean-water systems, and green engineering will help meet environmental and climate challenges in this century, Matthews said.
Goals of green infrastructure include getting rainfall into ground water supplies, rather than sluicing it away as runoff to rivers and bays. Its techniques can be as simple as permeable pavement that lets rainwater seep into the ground, storm basin designs that use native plants, and biological soil functions to clean up polluted runoff.
It's a design philosophy that looks to "manage storm water as a resource" rather than just a nuisance to be flushed away quickly, said Clay Emerson, an engineer with Princeton Hydro, a New Jersey firm that works closely with forum hosts the American Littoral Society. Backed with grants from the state Department of Environmental Protection, they are working on stormwater cleanup projects in the Long Swamp watershed in Toms River, a tributary of Barnegat Bay that's heavily loaded with runoff pollution.
To read more about the water quality of the Barnegat Bay, see Barnegat Bay Under Stress.
"I do live in the real world. There's a need for concrete and traditional structures," Emerson said, as images of conventional storm basins and newfangled "rain gardens" flashed on an overhead screen. But properly designed, the green basins and gardens are "functionally superior to traditional methods," with better reliability and lower maintenance, he said.
"Every drop of water we can keep out of our overtaxed infrastructure is a good thing," said Adrianna Caldarelli, a DEP environmental scientist. In Camden, there are about 20 small green infrastructure projects throughout the city -- priced at $5,000 to $6,000 each -- along with some bigger ones like conversion at city parks and an old gas station site. The goal is to reduce combined sewer overflows, when overburdened storm water pipes and sewage flows combine to flow to the Delaware River.
"Unfortunately when it floods in Camden, it's not just water, it's sewage," she said. "It's a public health hazard."
In the latest round of state grant applications being finalized this week, Barnegat Bay projects are a priority. But that will be a long-term proposition. Rutgers University geographers have mapped some 2,700 storm water basins -- many of them old and malfunctioning -- in the bay's 660-square-mile watershed.
Kirk Moore: 609-709-5036; firstname.lastname@example.org
(c)2014 Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.)
Visit the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) at www.app.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.