FLEMINGTON, NJ - Flemington will join the Raritan Township Municipal Utility Authority, which provides sewage treatment to the borough, in challenging a recent New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection decision to upgrade the South Branch of the Raritan River to a C-1 designation.
The South Branch was among 600 miles of New Jersey rivers and streams that were upgraded last spring because of their exceptional ecological value or their exceptional fisheries resources, according to a DEP press release.
The C-1 is the mid-range of three waterway designations the state uses. The other two are Outstanding Natural Resource Waters and C-2.
Raritan Township MUA has filed a lawsuit challenging the new designation, fearing that it could add costs to treating sewage in the future. Currently, the C-1 designation doesn’t alter the MUA’s water treatment requirements.
“We’re contesting the science behind the designation,” MUA Chairman John Kendzulak told the Flemington council Monday night. “Our professionals do not feel that portion of the South Branch should be designated a C-1 waterway.”
MUA attorney Margaret Carmeli said the suit the MUA filed challenges the DEP’s transparency in making public its decision-making process as well as the science behind the decision. For example, Carmeli said the DEP relied on information gathered by volunteers, rather than paid professionals.
Raritan Township and the Hunterdon County Freeholders have agreed to file an amicus brief in support of the court challenge. On Monday, the MUA asked borough officials to do the same.
“We’re being asked to join this in good faith based on your professionals and data, none of which I’ve seen,” said Flemington councilman Christopher Runion, the only council member to oppose the request.
“We support clean water, we’re not looking for any less treatment,“ said Carmeli. “We just want to be held to the same standard that other users are held to.”