Stormwater runoff has been identified as the leading threat to the water quality in the Barnegat Bay. As populations and development continues to increase within our coastal communities, more contaminants find their way into the Bay, impacting our coastal quality of life.
When it rains or snow melts, the “stormwater” runoff flows over lawns and streets into the collection system of inlets and culverts into creeks, lakes and streams on its way to its final destination, the Barnegat Bay. Along the way, it picks up contaminants such as improperly applied fertilizers, sediment, pet waste, oils, and toxic metals, etc., which end up in the waters that we use for swimming, drinking and fishing.
Ocean County works with Federal, State, and regional agencies and its towns to reduce the amount of polluted runoff. The NJDEP Municipal Stormwater Management Rules mandate towns to develop plans and implement certain pollution prevention procedures.
In April 2005, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders designated the County Planning Department as the County review agency for Municipal Stormwater Management Plans and Stormwater Control Ordinances. In accordance with NJAC 7:8-4.4, the county review agency’s responsibility is to review and approve, conditionally approve, or disapprove municipal stormwater management plans and ordinances.
PREVENTING STORMWATER POLLUTION
The County has implemented a number of stormwater pollution prevention initiatives:
The runoff that does not infiltrate back into the ground eventually ends up in the stormwater system. Inlets and outfalls can become clogged with trash and sediment, further polluting the runoff. The County has a number of programs that remove contaminants where they accumulate within the stormwater system.
Identifying Stormwater Facility Locations:
Using GPS, the County currently locates all its inlets, outfalls and stormwater facilities so that they can be numbered, labeled, and inspected. The outfalls are inspected for sedimentation, debris and illicit connections and discharges. Suspicious discharges are traced back to the source and the persons responsible.
Storm drains are labeled “Only Rain in the Drain – Flows to Barnegat Bay”.
Jet/Vac Maintenance Program:
The County is mandated under the NJ Stormwater Rules to clean its inlets of sediments and debris. The County owns approximately 10,000 inlets on its roadways and an average 2,200 inlets are vacuumed out with its seven Jet/Vac trucks each year. Every year, thousands of tons of debris are taken to the Ocean County landfill for disposal.
Vehicle and Equipment Wash Facilities:
The County has constructed three new wash systems to service the larger county vehicles at the county garage facilities in Toms River, Stafford and Plumsted Townships. In addition, the County has installed enclosed wash pad systems for cleaning heavy equipment at its facilities. At both of these types of facilities, the used wash water will be treated, recirculated and reused, preventing pollutants from entering the stormwater system.
The County uses street-sweepers to sweep and collect debris from County roads. This prevents the material from entering the storm sewer system. Seventeen street-sweepers are currently in operation, which are each responsible for a section of the 621 miles of County roads. Contents of the sweepers are collected, screened and taken to the Ocean County Landfill for beneficial reuse as cover material. In 2006 alone, 1,740 cubic yards of trash were removed from County roadsides.
Rain Gardens / Stormwater Basin Retrofit Project:
Ideally, rain water should recharge into the soil and groundwater. Residential developments and many non-residential properties typically have a centralized collection system called a “detention basin”, which captures stormwater runoff so that it can infiltrate back into the soil and groundwater. Unfortunately, some of these facilities are not operating effectively because of compaction of the soil during construction.
Through an NJDEP grant, the County partnered with the Soil Conservation District to restore these impaired basins and create attractive and efficient “Rain Gardens”. The soil is loosened to reverse the compaction and mixed with compost to increase the organic matter in the soil. The basin is then planted with wet-tolerant native trees and plants and will eventually revert to an attractive natural state through succession.
The goal was to develop guidelines for planning, design and construction that would prevent compaction and the need for future restoration. Healthy soils are an important part of managing stormwater and maintaining water resources in the Barnegat Bay Watershed and Estuary.
The County and the Soil Conservation District developed training and workshops on this pilot project, which were funded in part by the Barnegat Bay National Estuary Program.
Through this project, fifteen stormwater basins have successfully been restored. The County Engineering Department incorporated design recommendations into its Supplemental Specifications for stormwater basin construction.
Trapping Sediments and Suspended Solids:
The County has designed and retrofitted inlets with new castings with maximum 2” openings that trap floatables and other debris. Each new road will be constructed with the new inlet design.
In critical locations where pollutant loads are high, the County has installed different types of systems to catch debris. A number of hydrodynamic units were installed below the inlet grates. These massive units use centrifugal force to filter out and remove suspended solids. More units are planned to be installed throughout the County in areas important for intercepting stormwater pollution before it enters the Bay.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:
Create a Rain Garden on your property:
A rain garden for your home is designed to capture the runoff from your roof, driveway and property. This will help recharge rainfall and prevent runoff.
The garden should be constructed in a low area of the yard. It is bowl-shaped, rather than bermed, and planted with native plant species. There is much information available on the internet, including planting plans. For more information, start with the Rutgers NJ Agriculture Extension Station or the Native Plant Society of New Jersey.
Pet and Animal Waste:
Bacteria and pathogens from pet, farm and waterfowl waste can end up in swimming areas. This health hazard often causes beach closures. Always pick up after your pet. Waste should be disposed of in the trash or toilet, never in storm drains.
Fertilizers and Pesticides:
Fertilizers and pesticides used in lawns and gardens can be a significant source of water pollution. Over-use or misapplication of these chemicals can impact environmental quality if they find their way into groundwater and surface water systems.
Fertilizers stimulate the growth of algae. When the algae die and decompose, this depletes the supply of oxygen for fish and other organisms, a process called “eutrophication”. Always test the pH of your soil before applying fertilizers to optimize uptake by plants and prevent leaching into groundwater. Use non-polluting alternatives to inorganic fertilizers, such as compost and natural organic fertilizers. Best practices for pesticide use include spot-treating problem areas, using biological pest control, such as beneficial insects, and planting companion plants such as marigolds.
For more information about landscaping for a healthy environment, visit Jersey-Friendly Yards and the Ocean County Soil Conservation District.
Trash and Cigarettes
You can help by disposing cigarette butts and other trash properly in waste receptacles. Never throw anything out of your car or boat. Do not empty ash trays in parking lots, roads, or waterways. Nothing should ever be dumped into a storm drain.
Maintaining your Car and Boat
Automotive products containing toxic chemicals include motor oil, gasoline, battery acid, antifreeze, etc. Used motor oil is contaminated with heavy metals, lead and chemical additives. Antifreeze is also very toxic and can be fatal when ingested. Pets, children and wildlife are attracted to spilled antifreeze because of its sweet taste.
Disposal of these materials is regulated in NJ. They should be taken to a municipal or County recycling center or to a participating service station. You can help by maintaining your vehicle to prevent leaks, washing your car only when necessary and when possible, use a car wash that recycles its water. Never dispose of any hazardous materials in storm or home drains.
Clean boat bottoms ashore, where all debris can be contained and cleaned up. Put your garbage in bags and dispose of them properly on land. It is illegal to discharge effluent waste directly into the Barnegat Bay and Little Egg Harbor as they have been designated No Discharge Zones. Hail one of the six Ocean County Pumpout Boats to pump out your holding tank.