Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 51
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
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Weather Forecast

Wastewater Management Plan May Affect Future Development on Princeton Ridge

Ellen Gilbert

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is developing wastewater management rules, as part of the new Wastewater Management Plan, that could have implications for future development in municipalities across the state. Members of the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association presented their views to the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) during a meeting last week.

Policy Director of the Watershed Association Jennifer Coffey explained that the goal of the new rules adopted last year was to “protect habitat and human health.”

To do so, the requirements will prevent new sewer lines from being put into the ground in environmentally sensitive areas, delineated as 25 acres or more that have any combination of being a habitat for endangered, threatened, or priority species; a Natural Heritage Priority site; a Category One waterway, with corresponding buffer zones; wetlands; or coastal CAFRA areas, according to Ms. Coffey.

“We want to comment to the county, and township, and recommend that Princeton Ridge be considered an environmentally sensitive area,” Ms. Coffey said. Township Committee liaison to the Environmental Commission Liz Lempert remarked that the issue would likely be revisited by the governing body in January.

In August, Township Committee passed a resolution supporting the preservation of Princeton Ridge, and endorsed the acquisition and preservation of the land within the Ridge area through public and private initiatives.

Ms. Coffey pointed out areas on a map of the Township that the county had marked as “constrained land,” including the Stony Brook and the 300 foot buffer zone surrounding it, as well as Princeton Ridge. Under the new state regulations, places currently deemed “sewer service areas” where no sewers currently exist, and no final site plan application approvals have been obtained, will have their designation as “sewer service areas” revoked if the space is found to be environmentally sensitive.

“There are sewer easements throughout the Ridge, but the easements can be withdrawn,” noted Watershed Policy Specialist Joan McGee.

The new rules also contain guidelines protecting ecological health and water quality by limiting the amount of nitrate effluent from septic systems.

Ms. McGee said that many of the regulations are driving zoning requirements in neighboring towns.

“By regulating the placement of sewers, you are protecting your environmentally sensitive areas,” Ms. Coffey said, explaining that the wastewater management rules are just one part of “complementary local and state regulations that feed into one another.” She cited impervious coverage regulations and tree protection ordinances as also contributing to ecological security.

The “constrained land” marked on the county maps “is not a smart place to put high-density development,” Ms. Coffey acknowledged. “Essentially, this is going to spur conversations throughout the state regarding zoning.”

“I am here to encourage you to be vigilant,” she said.

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