Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Investigation Continues

As the water still sits surrounding the trees, appalling most visitors to the flood site, EVA continues to investigate.

The NJ Turnpike did allow the water to pass through its pipes only after assurances that the excess water would not damage its property or flood the roadway. It was up to other agencies to determine whether or not the water would cause problems at the downstream side.

There was some kind of natural ponding area at the drainage site when the Turnpike was built. That is why two 54" drainage pipes were built under the roadway.

Prior to the warehouse construction, the detention pond, and the drainage ditch, runoff from the Turnpike did not flood the area.

The detention pond was nearly dry on Saturday, July 23. A witness claimed that after the heavy thunderstorm that flooded Jamesburg, the detention pond and nearly 7 feet of water in it. All of that water would have drained under the Turnpike to the Green Acres lands to the west.

The plans for the new proposed warehouse and the current construction of Middlesex Boulevard all have drainage systems directed towards the Turnpike drainage pipes. This will send further flood waters into the Pigeon Swamp Parklands and the farm fields.

We are still waiting to hear from the DEP.

Monday, July 18, 2005

After the Rain

After recent rains, the runoff has created dramatic flooding in the Pigeon Swamp Park.
Water was flowing an swift streams carving out passages through the farmland into the trees and lowland areas. This same water connects to the swamps wetlands and vernal ponds.

A yardstick marks the depth of water at over nine inches flowing in a stream from field to forest after thunderstorms some 12 hours earlier.

Without high boots, I could not cross this area to check on other spots.

The roadway along the power lines was completely under at water even deeper than this, but water this deep blocked my way so I couldn't get in there either.

In the misty morning the cornfield looks like a marshland.

This is the the same field pictured in the lower blog post, taken from near the same spot.
It's pretty clear how high the water is at this point. Again, without high boots, I could not cross over to the other side.

I was shocked at how deep the water was this morning, just about 12 hours after the rainstorms of the evening before. Since I could not access some of the area on foot, I did not measure the depth of the water in other areas.

During the winter thaw, water in these areas was nearly three feet deep.

What is significant is that a good portion of this land was tillable farmland before construction of the drainage ditches east of the Turnpike.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


A search through Planning Board files in South Brunswick confirms the following:

The retention/detention pond on block 21.01, where the new warehouse is proposed is connected to stormwater runoff lines from warehouses on the north side of Davidson Mill Road. I will research the exact definition of retention and detention to determine exactly what kind of pond this is. It has an inflow pipe at one end and an outflow pipe at the other.

The pond was built in conjuction with the Circuit City warehouse development in 1999.

A drainage ditch was dug from the pond to the drainage pipes under the New Jersey Turnpike at about mile marker 77.

Overflow water from the pond drains under the Turnpike to a ponding area at the border of Green Acres land in the Pigeon Swamp State Park.

The pond has been overflowing as noted in the pictures in the blog below.

Some DEP permits exist, but it is not clear that all required permits were obtained. This is being investigated by various DEP people.

We must remember that stormwater runoff laws have just changed recently, so rules in 1999 may well have been followed.

In 2001, plans for the third warehouse in the Opus complex north of Davidson Mill Road show stormwater runoff also being drained into the southern pond. The other two warehouses in the Opus complex also drain excess stormwater into this area.

EVA is encouraging interested Township officials to visit the site of the flooding to see exactly what has been happening.

Watch this site for further updates.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Water, Water, Everywhere

Water, Water, Everywhere
Stormwater runoff from roadways and warehouses floods Green Acres.

Flooded Farmland on Green Acres Property testifies to questionable stormwater runoff practices. Trees now surrounded by standing water since spring may not survive the soaking.

Somehow, somewhere, someday, warehouse developers on the east side of the New Jersey Turnpike decided to drain excess stormwater from their sites off of their property, under the Turnpike, and onto the land beyond.

EVA was alerted to this during the recent megawarehouse hearings in South Brunswick when the applicant casually stated that some of their excess stormwater runoff would be sent under the NJ Turnpike and into the Pigeon Swamp. EVA "ears pricked up" at this statement as we immediately began to grow concerned.

Just because there is a swamp nearby, does not mean that excess water belongs there. Nature has created a delicate balance between its wetlands and its more absorbant soils. The area we are talking about illustrates this balance.

To the east, where the warehouses are being proposed and already built, lies a critical recharge area for the underground aquifer. Soils and substructures there quickly absorb the water from rainfalls and take them into the water storage areas below. While some runoff does occur, nature dictates the paths of that water, not man's engineering. Nature has managed to keep itself pretty content over the years.

To the west lie the less porous wetlands. Those areas stay wet because they are low lying, they might be underlaid with clay soils that hold water to the surface, or they may have naturally high water tables fed by underground springs. Here the plant life and animals are adapted to living in contually wet conditions. Once more, nature has maintained its own balance.

But now, with the additional runoff from the east, areas once dry are soaking and have been under water since the first thaws of early Spring. Once tillable farmland is now unsable because it sits under water.

Standing water fills section of farm field, surrounding by rows of corn. Much of the time, the water flows in a stream across the farm road. What was once dry land has been soaked for months.

Worse, trees, not at all adapted to swamp life have been in standing water for months. It is not likely that they will survive this incessent soaking of their roots and trunks.

How did this happen? Who allowed it? EVA is investigating. We will keep you posted on the results.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Weary of Warehouses

Weary of Warehouses

Warehouse development near residential zoning brings an invasion of unwanted traffic and general annoyance to homeowners. Anyone traveling along Route 535, Cranbury-South River Road, can testify to the traffic as well.

Do the benefits to the community outweigh the frustration of having a huge tractor trailer turn around on your lawn? Do questionable ratables really pay for the hours of frustration as you drive behind a slow moving truck in a line of traffic stretching for miles between "forever red" traffic lights? What about the added wear and tear on road surfaces, or the dangers of diesel particulate polluting our air, soil, and water?

The latest application before the South Brunswick Planning Board offers a prime example of the greed and arrogance of warehouse developers in our area. Planning to build on what their experts call an "underutilized" tract of farmland--after all, who needs agricultural products anyhow?--developers want to construct 1.4 million square feet of warehouse and office space. All this is on a lot wedged between the New Jersey Turnpike and a "ghost" road previously built between the farm fields in anticipation of future industrial development.

The land is zoned for warehouses, so there's no question about whether or not this building can be built. The question is whether it should be built.

Why 1.4 million square feet when all around empty warehouses are hungering for tenants? The developer claims it's the only way to make the property useful. But, in order to build to that size, he needs variances. In other words, under the current zoning laws and restrictions set by the Township, he cannot build a safe, useful, and efficient project of that size unless he breaks the rules. He needs special privileges for parking, building height and impervious coverage. He needs to be able to pave over some 100,000 extra square feet of land in order to make his project work to his satisfaction.

Underneath his building and parking lots lies a critical aquifer. This is a series of soil and rock layers designed by nature to filter and collect the rainwater into the natural storage areas below. Paved surfaces keep this water from being absorbed into its natural areas and create runoff, which sends water to other places such as retention ponds, storm drains, and, in this case, culverts under the New Jersey Turnpike leading into other less permeable farm fields.

The Township has laws limiting impervious surfaces in developments. Yet, this developer thinks nothing of asking for more, just so he can build bigger.

The developer's traffic engineer claims adding some six hundred vehicles to our roadways really won't be much of a nuisance because eventually, the County is going to widen Route 535. Most of his traffic will use that road, he claims, leaving the local residential roads free of any more trucks, worker vans, or new commuters.

But our local roads are already inundated with drivers trying to find alternate routes to avoid the jams on Route 535. Common sense tells a story contrary to the developer's claims.

August 3rd will bring the final Planning Board hearing on this latest project. Those of us who are weary of warehouses need to take a stand and work together to bring some sense back into our lives. It's time to have our say.