Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers Community Leadership Action Program

Join the Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers Campaign’s– 

Community Leadership Action Program

Are you concerned about increased flooding and polluted waterways in your community?

Did you know that this flooding may contain dirty household wastewater and raw sewage due to antiquated water systems in 21 NJ communities?

Do you want to help your community to solve these problems while enhancing your advocacy and leadership skills, and while building a network of peers making an impact?

If you are interested in applying to the upcoming spring 2024 cohort, please use this link:




21 New Jersey municipalities, with combined sewer systems, are working on local solutions to reduce the raw sewage discharged into nearby rivers, streams, as well as street and basement flooding caused by heavy rains and water systems that can’t handle the overflows.

Your community needs your help to accelerate these solutions and ensure they provide true benefits to the community as soon as possible.

Join a network of peers who want to be part of the solution and help lead efforts to solve this critical issue!


Sewage Free Streets and Rivers (SFSR) Community Leadership Action Program is a five session cohort based program providing grassroots community members and leaders residing in New Jersey’s Combined Sewer System communities an opportunity to deepen knowledge on local flooding and combined sewage overflow (CSO) issues, enhance leadership and advocacy skills, and explore the best ways to take positive action for themselves and their community.

Program Participant Takeaways

  • Understand local flooding and sewer overflow issues and effective solutions.
  • Learn about related state and local policies and plans, including your city’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Long Term Control Plan.
  • Build advocacy and influencing skills.
  • Communicate effectively with city leaders, media, community members, and other relevant audiences.
  • Develop a plan to take leadership on the team overseeing the CSO and flooding work in your community and/or a related leadership project to reduce flooding and sewage issues.
  • Develop peer networks at the local level. Several community members from each city will participate, giving you the opportunity to collaborate and motivate one another.

The SFSR Community Leadership Action Program will be professionally facilitated and include expert speakers on water policy, environmental justice, climate change/resilience, data tools, advocacy and leadership.

NJDEP Release of Combined Sewer Overflow Permit is a Major Step Towards Eliminating Harmful Sewage Flooding in NJ Communities

December 13, 2022

Michael Atkins
Communications Manager, New Jersey Future

NJDEP Release of Combined Sewer Overflow Permit is a Major Step Towards Eliminating Harmful Sewage Flooding in NJ Communities

Residents urged to participate in the 60-day review process; attend an educational permit review “how-to” workshop

TRENTON, NJ — Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are a clear and present danger to communities across New Jersey, threatening public health and safety during flooding events when sewage can flow into rivers, streams, public streets, and private properties. Last week, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) took a vital first step in addressing the pernicious issue of CSOs by releasing the first in a series of permits containing local strategies to repair sewer systems, and regulate and reduce overflows in impacted communities. New Jersey communities served by combined sewer systems (CSSs) that lead to these overflows are seeking NJDEP approval for projects that will contribute to the ultimate solution of eliminating sewage overflowing into their communities and waterways. This permit release marks a major milestone for New Jersey to meet the goal of sewage-free streets and rivers, and a turning point in our ability to address this issue throughout the state.

Since 2015, NJDEP and community stakeholders have endeavored to address the issue of CSOs dumping sewage into water bodies and backing up into streets and homes by requiring 21 impacted communities to develop Long Term Control Plans (LTCPs) by 2020. These plans will be implemented through a series of five-year permits. The first permit, as announced by NJDEP last week, is for the North Bergen Municipal Utilities Authority—Woodcliff Sewer Treatment Plant and Town of Guttenberg who own separate portions of one connected CSS and discharges overflows into the Hudson River when the capacity of the collection system and/or the sewage treatment plant is exceeded, typically due to heavy rainfall.

CSSs are sewers that were designed many decades ago to collect rainwater and snowmelt runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipe. CSSs are no longer permitted in New Jersey for new communities, but many older cities continue to operate existing CSSs.

Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers and our partners look forward to reviewing this important permit and providing comments to ensure the final permit achieves its intended comprehensive approach to eliminating CSO flooding in an equitable, affordable, transparent way that also reflects individual community priorities and values.

“We are glad the process is underway and thank the NJDEP for shepherding communities who are actively seeking solutions and for ensuring a fair 60 day comment period. We also acknowledge the hard work completed by municipalities, utilities, community members, and community organizations to develop plans over the last seven years. Moving forward, it is critical that NJDEP prioritizes release of the CSO permits impacting environmental justice communities. The burden from further delay in reducing flooding is too high of a cost to residents who are already experiencing many daily pressures,” shares Suzanne Aptman, Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers Program Manager.

NJDEP is providing a 60-day public comment period, ending February 13, 2023, during which community members, officials, and community organizations in the Woodcliff neighborhood of North Bergen and town of Guttenberg are urged to carefully review the permit actions and provide comments to NJDEP to ensure the proposed projects, timelines, and costs are the best solutions for that area.

This is a critical moment for directly impacted residents and for stakeholders in the other 20 CSO communities. Modifications made to this first CSO permit will inform the process, projects, timelines, and costs finalized in the other regional CSO permits expected to be released in 2023. As such, community members, officials, and community organizations in the other NJ CSO communities are encouraged to participate in this permit’s public comment process.

Written comments should be submitted by February 13. Two virtual public hearings for oral comments are scheduled for January 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and again from 6:00–8:00 p.m.

“Getting involved in the 60-day public comment period is critical. The people who live, work and run businesses in these cities will pay for these upgrades and should have a strong role in shaping the plans. Community voices are needed to ensure that the solutions are affordable, keep residents healthy, invest in local jobs, businesses and neighborhoods, and create more green spaces that promote climate resiliency,” said Michele Langa, staff attorney at NY/NJ Baykeeper.

A “How-To” Workshop for the Public

Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers Campaign and the Jersey Water Works CSO Committee will offer workshops and guidance to support community engagement in the CSO permit public comment process. These workshops are free and open to the public, municipal officials, and the press to attend to learn more about the issue.

The first virtual workshop will be on January 18 from 7:00–8:30 p.m. During this workshop we will explain how permits work, what should be included or is missing, and how the public can effectively weigh in by providing written or oral testimony during the public comment window. Feel free to invite fellow community members, municipal officials, and community-based organizations. Sign up here to join the workshop or to receive information that will help you to submit written and oral comments during the comment period process.

The Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers campaign collaborates with residents, community organizations and small business owners to advocate for and shape the solutions that were adopted in their Long Term Control Plan and that will be included in their first five-year permits to reduce localized flooding and the raw sewage dumped into our waterways.

Communities With Combined-Sewer Systems and a CSO permit (list)
Bayonne, City of Camden, East Newark, Elizabeth, Fort Lee, Gloucester City, Guttenberg, Hackensack, Harrison, Hoboken, Jersey City, Kearny, Newark, North Bergen, Paterson, Perth Amboy, Ridgefield Park, Trenton, Union City, Weehawken and West New York.

For further questions or inquiries, please contact Michael Atkins, 609-217-5569 or via email


Make your voice heard with NJDEP in January for reduced NJ flooding and sewage overflows!

Make Your Voice Heard with NJDEP in January for Reduced NJ Flooding and Sewage Overflows!

A Free Virtual Public Workshop:
Community Driven Input on Upcoming Combined Sewage Overflow Proposed Projects

Co-hosted by the Sewage-Free Streets and Rivers campaign and the Jersey Water Works (JWW) CSO Committee

 January 18, 2023, 7:00–8:30 p.m.

Sign up here

As a community member or community organization you have a chance to provide needed input on the most recent New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) proposed strategies and projects to reduce flooding and sewage overflows.

We want to support you to participate and offer your comments with ease and impact.

NJDEP is giving the public 60 days—until February 13, 2023—to comment – in writing and orally – on the recently released DRAFT North Bergen/Guttenberg, NJ CSO Permit (which allows certain strategies and projects to be implemented).

If you live or work in North Bergen’s Woodcliff Neighborhood or in Guttenberg, we highly encourage your participation. Modifications made to this first CSO permit will inform the process, projects, timelines, and costs finalized in the other regional CSO permits expected to be released in 2023.

As such, community members, officials, and community organizations in the other NJ CSO communities are encouraged to participate in this permit’s public comment process.

During this workshop, we’ll make it simple to understand:

  • What Combined Sewer Systems (CSSs) and Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are.
  • Why these NJDEP CSO permits are important for protecting the environment and public health.
  • What strategies, projects, and public engagement efforts should be included in an effective CSO permit.
  • Concerns around what may be missing in this first draft permit (for Woodcliff, North Bergen/Guttenberg, New Jersey).
  • How to provide comments before the permits are finalized (in writing and during oral testimony).

Sign up here and invite other organizations!

Use the above sign up even if you can’t join the workshop, so we can email you suggestions, tips, and reminders on joining the public comment period! Or email us at: and/or

Learn more about the background on CSOs, the Long Term Control plans and permits: