New Jersey’s Major Environmental Issues


Photo courtesy of WHYY

Smog over New Jersey skyline

For many years New Jersey has been working hard towards fixing environmental issues through education, legislation, and activism. Being that Jersey is such a heavily populated state, some environmental issues tend to be stubborner than others, sucking up loads more money than the less addressed problems. This state we’re in faces a variety of serious environmental challenges including air pollution, threats to clean drinking water and sprawl. However, despite these persisting problems, New Jersey is still a huge leader in open space and farmland preservation.

One of the major environmental issues in New Jersey has to do with sewer system overflows. When it rains a lot, the sewer systems (which are often very old) overflow because they can’t handle the wastewater, causing untreated sewage water to spill into Jersey’s rivers and bays. When sewage water and sludge overflow into Jersey’s waterways it pollutes and contaminates the water; putting the organisms living in it at high risk and leaving the water non potable. This issue has become a hard one to remedy as it is a very costly repair to fix all the sewer pipes and systems. As citizens of the state this is an issue we cannot do much to fix without the help of governmental action and money to back the plan, this issue will persist.

Another long-term issue the Garden State faces is poor air quality. New Jersey has never met the health-quality standards set out by the federal government for smog; pollution that settles over many parts of the state and decreases visibility. Smog can be very harmful to the respiratory system, especially for children and the elderly. Repeated exposure to smog can cause serious lung and heart conditions that are irreversible. While government legislators work aggressively to ease this issue, it still continues to be a major concern for Jerseyans. The only way to reduce smog and other carbon emissions is to reduce the amount you use your vehicles and how much fossil fuels industries are burning in production. If not treated, polluted air can lead to health problems like asthma, headaches, nausea, and emphysema. Polluted air can further cause larger issues like acid precipitation, which is detrimental to plants, animals and humans.

Lastly, concerns are also seen within New Jersey’s waterways, rivers, and bays. The Clean Water Act mandates that waterways should be swimmable and fishable, but Jersey’s waterways have often failed to meet this requirement as the water is polluted with a variety of sources from fish contamination, agricultural and residential run-off, and littering. While there has been big steps made to clean up polluted water, this can be very hard to clean up as pollutants stick to the water and soil, infecting land and homes miles away from the source. But, as citizens we are most responsible for helping to clean-up our waterways by reducing our use of fertilizers and detergents, stop littering and learn to recycle. 

With all these consistent issues New Jersey is looking to achieving a cleaner future. Officials will be working on several aspects for the 2020-2021 legislative sessions, including modernizing our transportation sector; as public transportation is one of the greatest contributors to our carbon emission levels. Other important factors like reducing pollution in communities, prioritizing land and park preservation, and protecting clean water through chemical safety reform will all be addressed and enforced for this year. These objectives will not only improve public health but also protect the raw beauty of our state, combat climate change, lay the foundation for sustainable growth, and provide more attention to environmental justice.