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$5M Grant Funds Disastrous Sewer Plan in Fortescue  


The proposed $15 million sewer project in Fortescue, Downe Township will receive a $4.49 million grant from the USDA.  The Fortescue WTP would discharge to Fortescue Creek, a tidal tributary to Delaware River Water Quality Zone 6 and would be sized specifically to receive the total projected wastewater flow of 0.146 million gallons per day (mgd) from existing development within the proposed new SSA, which represents buildout under 6a00d8341bf7d953ef01a511f0d7fc970c-320wicurrent zoning and other restrictions on further development within the proposed new SSA.


“This is the absolute worst time and place to be spending $5 million on a new sewer plant. This sewer plant is a disaster waiting to happen and is putting more people at risk in an area where climate impacts are increasing at an alarming rate. This $5 million grant is going to wash away in the next storm. What’s even worse is that this massive sewer plan is just a cover for justifying more development in a seriously flood prone area. Environmentally sensitive areas like coastal wetlands and critical habitats will also be impacted by this proposal,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The areas they want to service around Fortescue are some of the most vulnerable areas on the east coast for climate impact places and are going under water. Conditions will get worse, and this $5 million grant will go towards putting more people in harm’s way.  These are places Blue Acres should be buying out not a place for new development.”

The Downe Township municipal chapter WMP proposes a new Fortescue wastewater treatment facility and corresponding sewer service area (SSA) to serve existing development in the Fortescue and Gandy's Beach Villages, the Fortescue Park/Heritage Hill Estates mobile home park and the Raybins Beach area, which are currently served by individual subsurface sewage disposal systems (ISSDS).


“This plant is not needed. The sole purpose of it is to encourage more development. It fails to have an environmental analysis and violates the Clean Water Act and CAFRA law, and now we’re putting Federal money in the mix. The citizens who live here will end up paying thousands of dollars to subsidize new developments and will end up watching their properties away in the next big storm. Downe Township is designated as an environmentally sensitive area under CAFRA in the State Redevelopment Plan and therefore it is not justifiable because the only place to put the sewer plant is in the center of Fortescue. There has not been a proper anti discharge analysis from the facility or secondary impacts from stormwater runoff from increased development. There has not been a proper 201 analysis for this amendment as well,” said Tittel.  “The change in sewer service will mean additional development and that will mean more pavement and impervious cover, and increased stormwater runoff and pollution in our waterways.  This could also lead to overpumping aquifers, lowering the water table, and drying out streams and wetlands, eventually impacting Delaware Bay.”


Sewers and related infrastructure determine local land use and future growth more than anything else.  It is the major force behind urbanization of rural and environmentally sensitive lands and will have serious impacts on Fortescue’s wildlife.


“This proposed sewer facility and service area is in an environmentally sensitive barrier island planning area and a rural environmentally sensitive planning area. It is home to many habitats of endangered and threatened species and next to a significant global birding area for over 150 different birds. Sewage treatment plants or development would seriously impact these critical wildlife species and their habitats,” said Tittel.

The New Jersey Sierra Club believes that a new wastewater treatment facility in Fortescue, Downe Township is inconsistent with the State Development Plan. The amendment is being proposed without environmental analysis or review and violates the Water Quality Planning Act.


“The DEP has been looking to buy this area out as part of Blue Acres, and now they are looking at putting in a new sewer instead. The DEP has completely failed to do its job when it comes to flooding, water quality, and climate change. They failed to look at the Secondary and/or Cumulative Impact Analysis or a Groundwater Depletion Analysis of any kind. They did not look at the impacts of stormwater runoff and non-point pollution either. This area has high water tables and facility infrastructure is very vulnerable to inland and storm surge flooding. In some cases, this permanently impacts the aquifer. This grant money will not be enough to make it cost effective and will end up increasing the size of new development, which will put more people at risk,” said Tittel. “The first major storm after the pipes and plant are built could wash everything into the bay.”

Under New Jersey law and bond covenants of sewer plants, properties within 100 feet of a sewer line are required to connect to the line.  This will lead to more sprawl and development as even more properties must hook in, on top of the 13,000 acres added to sewer service.


“The DEP has used the excuse of one or two bad septics in the region to justify a massive development. Instead of doing proper septic maintenance and making sure development meet groundwater pollution standards, this project will bring in sewers and pipes and bring in more development that will increase nitrates and discharge of phosphorous into our waterways,” said Tittel. “This sewer plant does not meet current CAFRA standards, which is why DEP should be strengthening the current ones. We need to update our adaptation for sea level mitigation program, our shore protection plan, and have a Coastal Commission.  We also need to update new FEMA flood maps for sea level rise, update building codes, and start to implement adaptation and hazard planning as part of their resiliency model.”


This amendment was submitted to Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and a public hearing was held by Delaware River Basin Commission on May 15, 2019 and was approved unanimously by the commissioners the at the June 12, 2019 business meeting.


“A massive wastewater plant and sewer service area is not needed, and this USDA grant and the DEP will be permitting a disaster.  The plant will cost the town and its residents and become more of an excuse to build developments to pay for it. We could be using the public resources to fix and upgrade sewer systems that really need it. This proposal will threaten environmentally sensitive land, critical species, and worsen climate impacts to this already flood prone area,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Governor says he wants New Jersey to be a leader in climate change and sea level rise, however if this plan goes forward it’s all talk and no action.  The Governor and the DEP will be putting people at risk.  They need to stand up to climate change, our environment, and the safety of the people by rejecting this unneeded sewer plan.”