WATER LAW MAY SWAMP WETLAND

State officials are worried that by enforcing the Clean Water Act, they may unintentionally spur even greater development pressure on the Great Swamp Refuge. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently slapped nearby Chatham and Morris Townships with orders to upgrade their sewage treatment facilities, which daily flush 750,000 gallons of effluent into the Great Swamp.

Lacking federal funding for financing improvements on waste-water facilities, the townships will probably encourage new development in order to better distribute increased costs, according to the DEP. After the upgrading and enlarging of the facilities is complete, the waste water flowing into the Great Swamp could increase to a million gallons a day.

The DEP believes the Clean Water Act does not allow it to cap the volume of discharged waste water, so long as minimal water quality standards are met.

Because the state views the Great Swamp as a well-documented example of an environmentally sensitive preserve that's facing development threats, it is exploring other legal avenues that could establish a precedent for protecting valuable watershed lands.

``The Great Swamp may enable us to quantify the loss of open watershed, and explore what authority we have to control what goes on in terms of development,'' says DEP Commissioner Christopher Daggett. ``We may act knowing that we'll lose in court, just to make a statement to establish a new law.'' -30-{et

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