For residents of Howell Township like many local municipalities the health of the Barnegat Bay is an important issue in keeping the water quality at a high standard.
This month the Township saw a project a year in the making come to fruition as a new stormwater basin was constructed in the Ramtown section. With a grant of more than $600 thousand through the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, Township Manager Helene Schlegel said the work was being done without costing residents anything.
Schlegel said that the fact that the project will benefit the bay without any cost for residents is part of why they pursued the work. "We take every opportunity to raise funds that don't impact the taxpayers and this was just an opportunity that came along and everyone believed was important," she said.
The basin that is being constructed replaces an existing one with technology Schlegel said will further benefit the water quality. "There were new and improved ways to help stop pollution of stormwater pollution," Schlegel said. "This is going to be cutting edge."
Project engineer Al Yodakis said the technology being used was only developed a few years ago at the University of New Hampshire but has already shown, "great results with nutrient removal, specifically nitrogen which was one of the biggest problems affecting the Barnegat Bay." The system, he said, works through a combination of "microbial action, as well as the wetlands plants."
Similar projects have been undertaken in Ocean County not only by the county but by local municipalities as well. By the time the work is done and the basin, the only one currently being built in Monmouth County, is fully functional Yodakis said most people driving down Shenendoah Road will not even know it is there. The top, he said will be covered by top soil and wetlands grasses covering up the overall infrastructure of the project.
Councilman Robert Nicastro said that the impact of the project will be felt beyond the township's borders. "We all drink the water," he said. "Somewhere down the line it affects everybody, not only residents of Howell, but also New Jersey."
Mayor Robert Walsh said the township is looking at a variety of ways to improve their environmental impact without costing the taxpayers. That includes a planned discussion at the next council meeting at the new municipal building about energy aggregation. "We've had enough conversations that we're all on the same page," he said. "We need to explore it, put it out there and see what comes back.
There are also plans to make the new municipal building more energy efficient as solar panels will likely be put on the rooftop in the near future. Schlegel said any projects undertaken are done so only after a careful analysis of the costs. "We're not just blindly saying we want solar panels, we want this or we want that," she said. "We're making an educated decision about whether to go forward with these projects."
More information on Governor Chris Christie's plan for the Barnegat Bay can be found here.