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WCBS 880 Presents ‘Living Green’ Episode 4: Struggling With Flooding, Runoff In New Jersey

The raging waters of the Great Falls - Paterson, NJ (file / credit: Wayne Cabot / WCBS 880)

The raging waters of the Great Falls – Paterson, NJ (file / credit: Wayne Cabot / WCBS 880)

This special “Living Green” series will continue through Friday, April 27. Stay tuned to WCBS 880 and visit CBSNewYork.com for the latest installments throughout the week. If you missed the previous pieces, click here .

PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - The headlines of 2011 were filled with flooding in the Garden State. Some say overdevelopment is often the culprit. But efforts to contain the flooding have led to their own problems.

WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot On The Story

There have been six major floods since Gov. Chris Christie was elected in 2009, the Sierra Club of New Jersey’s Jeff Titel told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot.

“If we keep developing in the Highlands and we keep building along stream banks and filling in wetlands, places like Bound Brook, they’re gonna need snorkels,” said Titel. “No matter what we do with flood control projects, the more water comes down from upstream, the harder it is to deal with and more flooding we are going to have.”

They built the Pompton Lake Dam five years ago to prevent flooding in Oakland. But people upstream now say they get all of the water, Cabot reported.

Baykeeper Debbie Mans told Cabot that when those rivers rise, the runoff can be toxic. “From lawns, from golf courses, all the fertilizers we put on our lawns, the stuff we throw out our car windows that goes into the storm drains – that all goes right into the river,” she said.

“New Jersey has more miles of streams that are considered degraded for pollution as a percentage of the state than any state in the nation,” said Titel.

People are consuming that water in ways they might not even realize – from Budweiser to Tylenol and from Minoxidil to Goya beans, Cabot reported.

“We only have 23 out of almost 600 watersheds that are considered healthy by the EPA and only one real stream that actually meets all of the drinkable, swimmable, fishable standard from the Clean Water Act and that’s Flatbrook [River] up by the Delaware Water Gap,” Titel said.

Some want a water tax to fund an upgrade of runoff systems.

“You know, you realize how important it is for New Jersey to have clean water,” said Titel, who admits that the tax would drive up the cost of those products.

“Yeah, but… you would cap it for commercial. It would more be for residential and what we have found [is that] for the cost of about less than 3 cents a day per person, we could come up with enough money to actually meet a lot of these challenges,” said Titel.

There are success stories from past New Jersey water cleanup efforts. This weekend is Shadfest in Lambertville. It celebrates return of shad to the Delaware River. For information on the event, visit the Lambertville Area Chamber of Commerce website.

Have you been the victim of flooding in New Jersey? Please share your story in the comments section below.