The Verona Township Council announced at its Tuesday night meeting it had settled a lawsuit with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) involving the township’s wastewater treatment plant on the Peckman River.
The NJDEP imposed certain requirements in December of 2007 for the plant, but the township felt some of the regulations imposed by the NJDEP did not apply to the township.
According to the resolution passed Tuesday, litigation was brought forth “to contest certain provisions of its New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit as arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and without technical basis...”
“We try to make sure that the requirements placed upon Verona are appropriate,” said Verona's Attorney for Special Environmental Council Diane Alexander. “A lot of times the department comes up with calculated limits for your wastewater discharge that is not based on site-specific concerns.”
The contested requirements included copper treatment, monitoring for e.coli as well as fecal coliform, limitations for nitrate nitrogen and several others.
In the settlement, the NJDEP waived all of the requirements except for the limits on nitrates, which will be re-examined in six months.
Alexander reviewed the grounds for the settlement during the council’s public session.
Copper is very costly to remove but is not a wastewater issue, she said. The copper comes from household pipes and it offers very little benefit if not cut off at the source, she added.
“The only way to remove copper is an ionic process or reverse osmosis that would create more harm than benefit,” she said.
The plant currently monitors for e.coli but it would be redundant to monitor for fecal coliform, said Alexander.
Verona may have settled these matters, but the township will still have to wait for the NJDEP's ruling on the nitrate requirements. According to Alexander, wastewater treatment plants are designed to remove ammonia, which causes an increase in nitrate.
“There are no drinking water supplies downstream of Verona's wastewater discharge,” said Alexander. “For Verona to institute nitrate removal would be very costly and provide very little benefit to the environment.”
The township proposed the standard be applied at the water drinking water intake and not at the discharge point.
“The quality of the drinking water is not going to be affected by this,” Councilman Kevin Ryan assured the public.