August 19, 2019 | 90° F

COMMENTARY: Unnatural gas is expanding under our noses


Please wake up New Brunswick. There is a proposed gas compressor station coming to Franklin Township. You will smell it. You will taste it too, despite the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 which authorizes New Jersey to protect headwaters and wetlands because they filter and flush polluted downstream waters while storing flood water. Its pipelines will cross headwaters and wetlands of the already-contaminated Cheesequake Creek and Tennent Brook. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) lists more than 1,900 contaminated water bodies in New Jersey. We drink this water.

Cheesequake Creek flushes Raritan Bay. Cheesequake Creek is contaminated with DDT, chlordane, mercury, PCB in fish tissue and total fecal coliform. Tennant Brook flushes South River, which flushes Raritan River, which flushes Raritan Bay, each progressively more contaminated. South River is used for drinking water, fish consumption and aquatic life yet is contaminated with PCB found in fish, lead, dioxin chromium, cadmium, copper, arsenic, pH and low-dissolved oxygen.

Pipeline Construction is one word worth 10,000 words. Pipeline construction is degraded water quality, cleared vegetation, access road construction, fuel leaks and spills, chemical leaks or spills and equipment runoff into nearby streams.

Pipeline construction is soil erosion and sedimentation. Sediment is a contaminant. Sedimentation fragments habitats. Sedimentation causes fish deaths, covers root systems and lowers dissolved oxygen.

Road Construction compacts soils. Soil compaction causes flooding. Flooding degrades water quality and increases water treatments costs. Soil compaction reduces soil productivity. Soil compaction reduces groundwater recharge, increases drought and lowers stream water levels.

Pipeline construction is trenching and horizontal drilling. Horizontal drilling means drilling mud, a slurry of clay and synthetics. Drilling mud is a contaminant requiring special disposal.

Drilling means extra-large construction staging areas, months of disturbance, high cost and long-term damage. Drilling equals mud release into wetlands smothering organisms. This mobilizes New Jersey's buried stream-bed contaminants.

Pipeline means perpetual gas leak. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says U.S. gas line leaks are the second largest source of methane contamination worldwide, according to The Atlantic.

Walk down Mettlers Road in Colonial Park. Gas lines must cross at the bridge. Smell gas, ever-present.

Methane is an asphyxiant. Its long-term impacts on organisms is unknown. Methane degrades to formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and highly soluble in water. This pipeline means formaldehyde emissions. Atmospheric formaldehyde has been found in rainwater. The estimated formaldehyde emissions exceed the legal limit. Somehow the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) granted an air pollution control permit to Williams/Transco. 

This project is about putting temporary construction jobs over the health of the people who live here. The contaminated state of our waterways is proof that 45 years of the Clean Water Act has done nothing. The NJDEP is to blame. The people of New Jersey should sue the NJDEP for compromising the well-being of the citizens and the environment.

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Brian Frank

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