Meeting set to discuss ways to clean up area watershed

Gathering to be held April 25 at municipal building

By:David Koch
   BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP — A long process to clean up the area watershed has begun and local residents are being asked to participate.
   A meeting of the Public Advisory Committee for the Area 20 Watershed cleanup will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 tonight (April 25) at the Bordentown Township Senior Community Center.
   The meeting will update residents on the progress of a cleanup for the Area 20 Watershed, which includes 26 municipalities in northern Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer counties.
   There are 20 watersheds in New Jersey. Area 20 stretches as far as Edgewater Park to the south, Trenton to the north, the Delaware River to the west and Millstone Township to the east.
   Tonight’s meeting will include the areawide Public Advisory Committee (PAC), which is made up of a variety of Area 20 interest groups such as local officials and smaller subcommittees.
   These subcommittees include Education Outreach, Joint Land Use, Action Now and Agricultural Advisory panels.
   Officials said the meeting will be a chance for subcommittee chairmen to give progress reports and areawide assessments.
   Steve Hammell, environmental planning coordinator of Area 20 for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, said a discussion of smaller groups also will occur at the meeting to cover issues, goals and strategies.
   Mr. Hammell said the purpose of this coordinated effort is to carry out the full intent of the 1972 Clean Water Act with regard to nonpoint source pollution, which includes storm water runoff.
   The act first targeted point sources of pollution, which include specific areas of pollution such as factories and wastewater treatment plants.
   Cleanup of the nation’s water supply began with the 208 Water Quality Programs in the 1970s and ’80s, which targeted point sources that affected water quality.
   While this study does not target specific areas of pollution, it will address issues of water quality and quantity and land-use patterns.
   "The more the ground surface is made impermeable, the greater impact you have with storm water," said Mr. Hammell.
   When surface area is developed, the ground becomes impermeable and water runs off into streams instead of percolating into the ground to replenish underground aquifers. These underground aquifers provide much of the area’s drinking water, said Mr. Hammell.
   Mr. Hammell said the final objective of the cleanup is to make area water suitable for fishing and swimming for greater aquatic health and biodiversity.
   "We’re just in the very beginning," said Mr. Hammell. "What we’re really doing right now is identifying the basic issues and problems that we see in Area 20."
   Mr. Hammell said Area 20 is characterized by its heavy agricultural sector, which runs north and south along the "farm belt." The variety of agriculture in this area ranges from commercial nurseries to horse farms to vegetable and fruit production.
   Area 20 also includes older industrial towns along the Delaware River from Trenton to Burlington and busy highways such as Interstate 295 and Route 130.
   "Watershed Area 20 has Route 206, Route 130 and Interstate 295 where there is a lot of development going on that is putting pressure on agricultural areas and historical towns like Allentown," said Steve Quesenberry, program coordinator for the South Jersey Resource Conservation and Development Council and a member of the Agricultural Advisory Subcommittee.
   North Hanover Deputy Mayor John Kocubinski, a member of PAC with Mayor Kenneth Inman, said a study of the Area 20 Watershed also will provide his municipality with a dynamic planning tool.
   "Once you have located permeable and impermeable areas, it helps when we are looking with the Planning Board at growth areas," said Mr. Kocubinski.
   Mr. Kocubinski said the data could be used to determine future areas of economic growth, areas for future environmental protection and storm water management areas.
   "If we have this data, we could say a certain section of the town should not be commercial, because there may be an environmental issue or it might be a recharge area," he said.