Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Garrett and the Ghost of Nor'Easter Future

With Representative Scott Garrett's tour of some of the flood damaged towns in the Fifth, he reports he's seen first hand how hard hit the area is and how extensive the damage has been. I have little doubt his staff is going to do everything they can to help residents get FEMA aid if the disaster area declaration comes down. His staff always receives high marks for fulfilling this aspect of their duty, it's a shame Garrett cannot have the same said about him.

At issue is not this particular flood, there's really nothing that could have changed the outcome of this particular storm. However, over a month ago Garrett voted against providing funding for projects to prevent the overwhelming damage suffered in our District, state and region. While a storm like we just had will cause flooding, the extent of the damage would be lessened with a modern sewer system. With his vote against Representative Bill Pascrell's bill to provide funding to upgrade combined sewer systems, Garrett in essence was voting in favor of more extensive than necessary flood damage.

Garrett visited New Milford, River Edge and Rochelle Park; all of which are served by the Bergen County Utilities Authority. Here's how the State described the need to upgrade the BCUA's pipes.
Due to system capacity limitations, combined sewage surcharges and overflows into SE2 and FW2-NT waters. This results in excessive solids and bacteria levels, and floating sewage during wet and dry weather conditions.
Or in English, here's how the Record described a situation that Rep. Pascrell's Bill seeks to eliminate:

In Hackensack, the city's combined storm water and sanitary sewer system is overwhelmed by heavy rains 30 to 40 times a year, flooding streets and sending untreated waste into the Hackensack River.
Because the pipes from the northern part of Bergen flow south toward the treatment center in Little Ferry by a combination of gravity and pumping stations, when parts of the system get backed up you get what the Record reported happened in New Milford last week:

"It's disgusting," said Jane Sarnicki, whose house on Eagle Avenue in New Milford flooded with both rainwater and sewage during the storm when town sewers were overwhelmed by the volume of water.
There is also this from the Star Ledger:

In Paramus, officials declared a local state of emergency and then a health emergency when water overflowed the town's largest pumping station, disabling it and allowing sewage to back up into stores and a few homes. Many businesses were forced to close.

"It forced us to shut down all the businesses along Route 17, and along Route 4 west of Route 17," Paramus Mayor Jim Tedesco said. "You're talking about literally thousands of businesses. That presented a real problem for us today."

The town borrowed pumps and received permission from the state Department of Environmental Protection to pump sewage into the Saddle River, Tedesco said. The Garden State Plaza mall was closed for most of the day but reopened last night. Paramus Park Mall remained closed because of a power failure, officials said.
So the impact of the storm was beyond just the $180 million in property damage, it was also the shut down of the retail capitol of the North East and probably thousands of other businesses in other towns. Pascrell's bill allowed for roughly $340 million a year for sewer upgrades over five years; which the property damage from this one storm in our state alone equals 53% of that total without adding the economic impact or preventable healthcare costs from exposure to raw sewage.

Fortunately, 367 Representatives disagreed with Garrett, voting to support the fiscally responsible thing to do and invest the money now to prevent unnecessary damage from future flooding, large and small. There would have been flooding with this storm no matter what sewers were in the ground, but the particular problems mentioned above are a direct result of the pipes we have, and the pipes Garrett voted against fixing.

1 comment:

Jill said...

Time to write letters to the Record reminding all those people who vote Republican because they think they want "less government" that this is what "less government" means. Let's see if they still think government should be drowned in the bathtub. I'm trying really hard to have sympathy for those whose flooding problems were worse than mine (I just had ruined carpet from groundwater seepage) if they voted Republican in recent elections. You vote Republican, this is what you get -- a representative who answers not to you, but to Grover Norquist.