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Sewage Overflow Warning Signs Popping Up

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New Jersey Future Staff

Twenty-four-inch by 18-inch warning signs have been popping up along waterways throughout New Jersey. “Warning” or “Aviso” can be read in bold red letters, advising community members to steer away from nearby waters during rain events that might cause combined sewer overflows (CSOs). During rain events at these sites, raw sewage can flow into waterways, causing significant environmental harm and threatening human health. The two required signs at each of the 213 CSOs in New Jersey allow fishermen, boaters and other recreational water users to avoid harmful contact and illness.

Why are we getting warning signs?

Jan. 1 not only marks the new year but also the deadline, issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, to install the signage at all CSO outfalls in the state. The deadline is specified in new operating permits issued to all operators of sewage treatment systems that have CSOs. Utilities and municipalities have been installing these signs in their communities in order to comply with NJDEP.

Paterson CSO pours sewage into the Passaic River.
Paterson CSO pours sewage into the Passaic River.

One group in particular has taken the lead on getting these signs installed. The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, the state’s largest wastewater treatment plant, has designed and created signs for its sewershed. Chief Operating Officer Bridget McKenna said, “PVSC was happy to work with NJDEP and local communities to provide warning signage at CSO outfalls. This is a first step in raising awareness about CSOs and we look forward to more collaboration with the state and our local partners in the near future as we continue to improve the environmental quality of life for New Jersey residents and visitors.”

Collaboration and initiative on this issue reflect many parties’ determination to address the state’s inadequate water infrastructure. The warning signs are one of the first indications of the immediacy of the issue for 2016.

Signs have been spotted in Newark and Perth Amboy. Have you seen signs in your community? Send your photos to Jersey Water Works.

Jersey Water Works is a cross-sector collaborative of individuals and organizations focused on transforming New Jersey’s inadequate urban water infrastructure.

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