New Jersey Adopts New Water Quality and Wastewater Management Planning Regulations

August 16, 2008
Client Alert Newsletter August 2008

The revamped New Jersey regulations for water quality management planning, including provisions for wastewater management plans ("WMPs"), were published in the July 7, 2008 New Jersey Register.

The primary change to the regulations is the re-assignment of authority for wastewater management planning responsibility to the county governments. Each county that does not have a WMP adopted subsequent to July 7, 2002 and submitted to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ("NJDEP") prior to July 7, 2008, must submit a plan that complies with the new regulations within nine months (if the county fails to submit a plan, individual municipalities within the county may do so for areas within their jurisdiction) and all plans must be updated within six years from the date of last adoption. If a county does not comply within nine months (or a municipality within twelve), all sewer service areas within the county shall be withdrawn, effectively imposing a development moratorium, although provision is made for establishing alternative schedules. In addition, future NJDEP permitting determinations must be consistent with the new plans.

The required planning horizon is 20 years for urbanized municipalities, and full build-out (generally consistent with existing zoning) for all others. Much of the new WMP content relating to land use and wastewater capacity must be provided by the municipalities in each county. A lengthy list of environmental features also must be mapped and, with limited exceptions (e.g., approved clustering, septic service), sewer service may not be provided to certain environmentally sensitive areas such as areas of 25 acres or larger mapped as endangered or threatened species habitat by NJDEP's landscape project, special water resource protection areas along Category One (C-1) waters, mapped wetlands, and certain coastal areas. If adequate sewer capacity is not available to satisfy build-out needs, down zoning may be required.

Additionally, the WMP must demonstrate that septic systems are subject to a mandatory maintenance program (e.g., through enactment of municipal ordinances) and updated WMPs must address septic density in a manner that demonstrates compliance with a 2 ppm nitrate planning standard.