West Windsor studies impact of tougher water-quality rules

Councilman Shing-Fu Hsueh advises "forward-thinking strategy" to ensure long-term benefits

By: David M. Campbell
   WEST WINDSOR – Public health, open-space preservation and community development will be impacted by new federal and state water-quality rules, according to Township Councilman Shing-Fu Hsueh, who is advising "forward-thinking strategy" to ensure long-term benefits for West Windsor.
   In July, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency amended its water quality planning and management regulations to provide a basis for the EPA and state environmental agencies to set up tougher regulations to manage point-source and nonpoint-source pollution, said Mr. Hsueh.
   Point-source pollutants are those that are easy to measure and identify, such as waste water in treatment plants and industrial pollution. Nonpoint source pollutants are from more diffuse sources, such as animal waste, fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, and storm water runoff from impervious surfaces, said Mr. Hsueh, who is an administrator specializing in water supply at the DEP.
   In conjunction with the federal rules, the state DEP has published its proposed water quality and watershed management rules, which are still available for review and comment by the public. The proposed rules will set stricter regulations of nonpoint-source pollution, Mr. Hsueh said. If the new state watershed rules are approved, municipalities will have to make sure their ordinances comply with the new regulations, he said.
   In West Windsor, Mr. Hsueh’s Stormwater Management Committee was recently set up to develop a plan to ensure that the township not only is prepared to deal with the federal and state requirements but is in a position to get the most out of them. The committee is comprised of scientists, lawyers, policymakers and educators, and will make recommendations to the Township Council and the Planning Board, Mr. Hsueh said.
   The watershed rules can be used by the municipality not only to reduce nonpoint pollutants in the water but also to manage growth.
   Recommendations may include ways to best manage water quality, design storm water basins and protect headwaters such as Little Bear Brook and Duck Pond Run, which serve as feeders to downstream water sources throughout the township, Mr. Hsueh said.
   Flooding could lead to potential health problems, such as mosquitoes.
   "Storm water (planning) could be a serious matter in West Windsor, and if we don’t do it right, it could create a flooding problem," Mr. Hsueh said. "I think the state watershed rules will discourage developments going in places where infrastructure will not be there, and encourage them to go where sewers are already in place."
   The state watershed rules also encourage development around existing sewer lines by imposing a tougher review process on developers who propose to extend sewer lines, Mr. Hsueh said. The rules help municipalities focus development in existing high-density areas, and protect remaining open space, he said.
   "Sustainable community development based on environmental planning is now becoming a reality," Mr. Hsueh said at a public hearing last month to acquire 538 acres of open space in the southern end of the township.
   "With the right strategy and planning, it may be possible for us to preserve all of the available open space in West Windsor. With an innovative and forward-thinking strategy, it will not only nurture and protect the quality and beauty of our environment, it can also result in increased recreational opportunities for our residents in the future."
   During a Board of Health meeting last week, Mr. Hsueh said open-space preservation efforts also would protect water quality in the township. By protecting land around township headwaters such as Little Bear Brook and Duck Pond Run, it will help minimize down-stream contaminants throughout the township, he said.
   Mr. Hsueh said he is still seeking volunteers for his committee.
   "We want to set up priorities. We want to make sure we can review current township ordinances to deal with storm water, to make sure we update our ordinances with the most recent science and technology available," he said. "Many ordinances were designed years ago, and now we are in a much better position in terms of technology and the quality of our sciences."