On March 24, 2010, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued Administrative Order No. 2010-03 – a measure that extends the deadline for wastewater management planning entities to submit revised wastewater management plans (WMPs), until April 7, 2011. This administrative order also provides property owners with new rights in connection with NJDEP’s wastewater management planning process.

Background

WMPs are legally binding documents that govern where new sanitary sewer lines can be built. For a sewer line to be extended into a property, it must be included within the sewer service area (SSA) in the area wide WMP. Properties that fall outside the SSA are generally required to be served by septic systems.

In July 2008, NJDEP adopted the Water Quality Management Planning Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:15-1.1 et seq. Those regulations require updates to the existing WMPs, which updates are expected to involve substantial changes to the current SSA; properties that are within the current SSA could be removed from the SSA as part of NJDEP’s WMP revision process. The original submission deadline for the revised WMPs was April 7, 2009; however, NJDEP has been regularly approving extensions of that deadline.

Administrative Order No. 2010-03

Administrative Order No. 2010-03 is an effort to facilitate compliance with NJDEP’s Water Quality Management Planning Rules. This new administrative order provides for the following:

  • Extension of the deadline to submit revised WMPs. The submission deadline for revised WMPs is extended until April 7, 2011. In the interim, NJDEP will not withdraw any existing SSA designations under the July 2008 Water Quality Management Planning Rules.
  • New rights for property owners to petition NJDEP. Any property owner may submit a written request to NJDEP to have property included within the future SSA in a revised WMP. NJDEP will provide a written response within 90 days. For NJDEP to approve such a request, the owner should demonstrate that providing sewer service to the property:
    • (a) Is consistent with applicable zoning or the local master plan, or has a building permit or site plan or subdivision approval reliant on sewer service; and
    • (b) Meets NJDEP’s criteria, set forth in N.J.A.C. 7:15-5.24 and 5.25(h), for provision of sewer service (those criteria are intended to restrict the provision of sewer service based on the presence of environmentally sensitive features such as threatened and endangered species habitat, Natural Heritage Priority Sites, Category One riparian zones and wetlands).
  •  Additional procedural requirements for amending WMPs. Prior to approving a revised WMP, NJDEP is now required to publish the draft SSA mapping on its website, and invite public comments on that mapping for at least 60 days. NJDEP is also now required to hold at least one public hearing on the revised WMP, upon 30 days advance public notice. These requirements are in addition to the existing procedures for amending WMPs.
  • Protection for properties within an existing SSA. As part of the WMP revision process, NJDEP does not intend to remove from the SSA properties that have valid, unexpired: (a) municipal site plan approval or, if site plan approval is not required, a subdivision approval; and (b) if required, either NJDEP Treatment Works Approval or a NJPDES permit.

Follow-Up Action

Interested property owners should act quickly to evaluate any proposed changes to the current SSA. Owners should not be complacent about this issue, and should definitely not assume their continued inclusion in the SSA merely because they may have the development approvals referenced above. Indeed, we have encountered situations where the NJDEP has proposed to remove from the SSA parcels that have zoning and/or site plan approvals for the development of several hundred thousand square feet of industrial and commercial floor area. Owners should, at the very least, review the NJDEP’s preliminary draft SSA mapping to ascertain its impact on their property. If necessary, owners should now take advantage of the new rights provided by Administrative Order No. 2010-03 to petition NJDEP for the inclusion of property in the future SSA.