Minutes: February 7, 2011
Call Meeting to Order
The Vernon Township Environmental Commission (EC) meeting was called to order by Dennis Miranda, Chairman at 7:15 p.m.
Statement of Compliance
Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act, Chapter 231, P.L. 1975 adequate notice as defined in Section 4D of Chapter 231, P.L. 1975 has been transmitted from the Vernon Municipal Center to the New Jersey Herald on January 11, 2011, and published on January 14, 2011. Notice is posted on the bulletin board and filed with the office of the Township Clerk.
Aida Cahill, Recording Secretary
Pledge of Allegiance
Dennis Miranda led the assemblage in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Open Meeting to the Public
Motion: Allison Petryk
Second: Michael Furrey
All were in favor.
Closed Meeting to the Public
Motion: David Gornstein
Second: Allison Petryk
A roll call vote was taken:
Ayes: Michael Cheski, Michael Furrey, David Gomstein, Allison Petryk, Dennis Miranda
Land Conservancy of New Jersey
Dennis Miranda reported that the Land Conservancy of New Jersey had written to Mayor Rinker to acknowledge that the township has received $143,000 in grant funds and that the township’s contract with the Land Conservancy is set to expire on February 28, 2011. Mr. Miranda further reported the Land Conservancy offered a series of activities that they could conduct as part of a contract extension. Chairman Miranda stated that the offer is intended to further a contract that the goveming body should have performed on in 2010. Mr. Miranda also stated that the Land Conservancy of New Jersey has been a very forthright, focused consultant, and also stated that the EC has done everything possible, based on due diligence, to set the table for the rest of the town. Mr. Miranda advised that once the contract expires, EC meetings can revert to once per month since there will not be an Open Space agenda to pursue.
DEP Protection Preliminary Assessment Local Response Form
Paul W. Polo is offering to sell Block 61, Lot 17 and state law requires that all acquisitions by Green Acres must get approval from local jurisdictions where the property is located. Mr. Miranda completed and signed the attached questionnaire.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline
Tennessee Gas Pipeline sent a letter to inform the EC that they are submitting an application for a permit or approval to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). They want a transition area waiver on all wetlands and they want individual fresh water wetlands permit to conduct activities in a wetland, so this is construction and development. The EC will review this application at the next meeting.
ANJEC subscription renewal has moved to the Finance Department and it will be renewed in the future.
Appalachian Trail Initiative
Dennis Miranda advised that he brought this back on the agenda because he will be in Washington, DC all of next week and asked commission members if they would like him to meet with Ms. Underhill of the National Park Service who works in Halifax, Virginia. Commission members agreed.
Sustainable New Jersey
Allison Petryk reported giving a letter to the township Manager in regard to Sustainable New Jersey. Allison Petryk also reported that she was asked by the Manager’s office if she wanted to make a presentation, however the presentation would have been only two days after delivering the letter, and so Ms. Petryk informed the Manager’s office that this wasn’t enough notice. Ms. Petryk stated that she didn’t know if the EC should move forward, if there isn’t any support from anyone else. Dennis Miranda suggested waiting until the new council takes power. Allison Petryk agreed and stated that the new council may be in the spirit of change. Mr. Gomstein advised that it will be months before the new council will be up to speed and doesn’t feel Sustainable NJ will be one of their priorities, to which Mr. Furrey agreed. Mr. Gomstein stated that making a presentation now may have the best chance for success. Allison Petryk will contact the Manager’s office for possible set up of a presentation with the council.
Western Highlands Scenic Byway
Dennis Miranda is still working on the GPS points.
The EC discussed hosting a booth at Earthfest, to be held on May 1, 2011 at Heaven Hill Farm, as well as the possibility of organizing an Appalachian Trail hike and Wildflower Walk. Proposed meeting time and place for the walk would be 9 - 11 a.m. Sunday morning at the Appalachian Trail parking lot. Michael Furrey will also do simple water testing for kids. Mr. Gornstein suggested the EC booth be adjacent to Jay’s booth (NJ Water Association) and asked Ms. Petryk to request a prime location.
Planning Board Llason Report
Mr. Gornstein had no report.
Mr. Jay Vouglitois from the NJ Water Association was in attendance at tonight’s EC meeting to give members the opportunity to ask questions or give comments regarding the Source Water Protection Plan that was distributed for their review at the January 3, 2011 EC meeting. Jay explained that basically what the plan does is provide information on the location and other characteristics of the Vernon Water Company public water supply wells. Jay stated that there is a map showing where these wells are located and there is also a map included that shows the source water assessment areas around each well. Jay reminded EC members that when he met with them last October, he showed pictures of those source water assessment areas, the three tiers, the 2, 5 and 12 year time of travel around each well.
Jay explained that these are the wells in need of protection and the source water assessment areas, the three tiers are where the protection is needed. The plan also includes a lot of information on the susceptibility of the wells to various types of contamination, which is why protection is needed. Jay pointed out that because they are susceptible to various types of contamination, and that the wells are all in non-confined fractured bedrock aquifers, this makes them a lot more susceptible than the wells in South Jersey, where there are clay layers that protect the groundwater from contamination, originating at the surface.
Jay stated that the meat of the plan is the management strategies, which is how protection of the groundwater around the Vernon Water Company wells and throughout Vernon township will be implemented.
Dennis Miranda stated that he didn’t want the focal point of Jay’s presentation to be limited to the Vernon Water Company. Mr. Miranda stated that Vernon township will soon vote on a bonding measure to create a central water system for the township center. Mr. Miranda questioned if there was a more comprehensive approach where someone other than himself or the EC Commission speaks to the value of developing a plan addressing water resources, not just at the well heads, not just of the yields but the replenishment of the whole resources, not just limited to one well region or another.
Jay spoke about the water budget that is already in the natural resource inventory which shows that 10 of the 16 sub-watersheds are already at a deficit. Michael Furrey asked Jay to include that information in the Plan.
Dennis Miranda suggested skipping Vernon Water Company wells and concentrating on United Water.
Jay explained that the management strategies that are in the draft plan that protect Vernon Water Company’s wells will also protect United Water wells and private wells. Jay advised that one of the things recommended is to have an ordinance that regulates septic systems, specifically that requires septic systems be inspected and cleaned, as necessary, at least every two or three years. Jay stated that an ordinance like that will be protective of all wells in the town because a lot of people who have private wells also have their own septic systems and one of the most common ways of contaminating a private well is with the septic system that is located adjacent to it.
Dennis Miranda questioned who would enforce that ordinance. Jay stated that the township would be responsible for enforcing it. Mr. Furrey stated that the Sussex County Health Department would enforce the ordinance. Jay suggested that, in his opinion, it is better to get the ordinance on the books and deal with enforceability issues later.
Jay also spoke of a water conservation ordinance being recommended to restrict watering during the day in the summer which would protect wells throughout the township by conserving the township’s water supply. Jay explained that it is not specific to Vernon Water Company wells, even though it is in the Vernon Water Company Source Water Protection Plan.
Jay further commented that public education is also a key recommendation, such as Earthfest. This type of program piques public interest and educates the public.
Jay advised that he has put in an OPRA request regarding the Herold Square discharge to groundwater permit. Jay suggested that once the discharge starts, and monthly reports are being generated, he can start reviewing those and giving periodic reports by attending EC meetings on a regular schedule.
Mr. Furrey stated that it will be at least a year before there will be any kind of discharge. Jay advised that when he gets the permit documents from DEP, he will scan them in and make them available to everyone. Mr. Furrey asked Jay about the possibility of limiting certain uses and asked Jay to talk about this.
Jay stated that limiting uses is covered in the first regulatory management strategies Master Plan revision, and the adoption of ordinances implementing the Master Plan revisions which would be a land use ordinance. Jay went on to say that the Highlands element of the Master Plan already covers that. There are lists of prohibited uses in one or more of the tiers and they address things like that. Jay expressed confusion about the Vernon Township planner deleting the whole well head protection section.
Dennis Miranda stated that it was because it was a politically expedient decision. Mr. Miranda commented that whatever draft plan Jay puts on the table is great for this audience, but we need to get it to the Planning Board for a presentation as well as to the governing body. Mr. Miranda stated that there will be political decisions being made, shortly, about raising more money to create more infrastructure and nowhere in that process is there the central question asked strategically if Vernon’s water resources would be compromised. Mr. Miranda stated that this is a good time to restart or rekindle that conversation.
Jay stated that it comes back to the first two management strategies, Master Plan revision and land use ordinances. It is the Planning Board that is going to have to do that. It is the Planning Board that is going to have to implement the Highlands requirements in the preservation area.
Mr. Miranda commented that there have been opportunities to do the right thing with water resources and they were all politically squelched. Jay advised that he will start putting together the Source Water Protection Plan for United Water wells. Jay says he will be finished with the plan in approximately and then make arrangements for some time in April or May for a presentation with the Land Use Board.
Dennis Miranda will write something regarding an outline of last year’s EC activities of 2010 for next meeting for the EC to review.
Dennis Miranda suggested concentrating on getting new recruits for the EC.
Dennis Miranda stated that he will probably chair one more meeting before moving to Florida to accept a new position.
Mr. Gornstein asked if the members needed for a quorum changes based on the number of active members currently sitting on the Commission.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
Aida Cahill, Recording Secretary
Minutes approved: March 7, 2011