With Drought Warning Imminent, Water Groups Urge NJ Environmental Officials to Address Long-Term Drinking Water Needs


SaveH20NJ.org, an alliance of environmental groups committed to preserving and protecting the state’s drinking water supply, expressed growing concern over the diminished levels of New Jersey’s reservoirs on the eve of a drought hearing by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

On the heels of extremely dry spring and summer seasons and with drinking water reservoirs plummeting to approximately 50 percent capacity in North Jersey, the DEP has scheduled a public hearing on Thursday morning, a necessary step before it can issue a drought warning.

A drought warning for the following 12 counties — in which millions of New Jerseyans rely on the public water supply — could be issued as early as Thursday: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, and Union. Those counties have been under a DEP-issued drought watch since July.   In addition, the DEP has expanded the drought watch to include Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Monmouth, Ocean, and Salem counties. All but three counties — Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland — are under a formal drought designation.

A drought watch seeks voluntary water conservation; the more serious drought warning enables the DEP to require water purveyors to take action to conserve and secure drinking water sources.

“The condition of the four largest reservoirs in the state — Round Valley, Wanaque, Spruce Run and Monksville — is absolutely dire.  This action to designate a formal drought warning is extremely late, maybe too late.  I hope declaring a drought emergency does not happen, but if it does, DEP need look no further for someone to blame than in the mirror,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition.

The last drought warning occurred in 2001. However, this is the second consecutive year that the DEP has issued a drought watch. In addition to drinking water reservoir levels reaching dangerously low levels, the DEP has listed all stream flows and ground water levels for the entire state as moderately, severely or extremely dry for at least the past 90 days. The DEP publishes updates to drought indicators for the state at njdrought.org.

“New Jersey’s dwindling water supply is a growing concern to the millions of families and businesses who rely on an abundant supply of clean and affordable drinking water,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “Data and observation over more than a year have pointed to a water system in peril. While we applaud the DEP’s recognition of the worsening drought, we implore the agency to end its decades-long delay in adopting a long-term plan to preserve and sustain a clean drinking water supply.”

The NJ Legislature had the foresight and understanding to require proactive planning and ensure that NJ has enough clean water available to meet all of our needs. In 1981, the Legislature passed the Water Supply Management Act, and it requires that the DEP update the Water Supply Plan at least every five years. However, the last plan update happened in 1996 — 20 years ago.

“New Jersey’s Water Supply Plan is 20 years old and it fails to adequately plan for drinking water supply for NJ’s growing population. We need the DEP and Governor Christie to update and release the Water Supply Plan to ensure we have enough water to drink, grow Jersey Fresh Produce, support healthy habitats, recreation, tourism, and water dependent businesses in our state including Budweiser, Goya, and M&M’s,” Jennifer Coffey, Executive Director, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions.  “Clean water is essential to life, economy, and a healthy environment in the Garden State. Without the Water Supply Plan, the state government is gambling with our future.”

“The drought in North Jersey is a sign of things to come.  Due to improper planning by the DEP, our residential and ecological communities will suffer far greater than if New Jersey released a water supply master plan years ago and implemented provisions to help deal with low supply and high demand.  Residents should voice their concerns at the hearing and demand immediate action with a strong plan that protects our most precious resource.” Jaclyn Rhoads, Deputy Director, Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Tools and tips for water conservation in homes and communities including landscaping, leak detection, and best water practices can be found at: http://www.saveh2onj.org/

“We need to act now to protect our state’s water. Clean and plentiful water is essential for our economy and ecology. Threats to our waters threaten our wildlife, communities and economy,” Tim Dillingham, Executive Director, American Littoral Society

The public hearing is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in the Millburn Free Public Library auditorium, 200 Glen Avenue in Millburn.

Reprinted with permission from the Association of NJ Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) and SaveH20NJ.org.

The Ecological Benefits of the Not So Perfect Yard

autumnleavesby Joanne Mullowney

The annual autumn cleanup is almost upon us and we would like to suggest that you channel your inner Environmental Steward by leaf cycling. Hoarding your autumn leaf drop provides numerous benefits for your landscape. It provides raw materials for the compost pile and an insulating winter cover in the garden. It helps with soil building and moisture retention. And, not inconsequentially, it helps save taxpayer dollars by reducing the amount of resources local governments put out for fall cleanup.  While you might think that this leaves the yard looking a little less than perfect, less labor may be required as we strive to become Leaf Litter Bugs.

The somewhat messy yard contributes yet another important benefit – habitat for the wild creatures that share our landscapes. Did you know that despite its not so perfect look, leaf litter provides an important foraging space for a wide variety of birds, small mammals and insects? The untrimmed winter garden invites insects to reside in native grasses or settle in hollow plant stems; while birds feed from dried seed heads.

So how do you balance a desire to have a not-so-messy yard (and not irritate the neighbors) with the needs of the interconnected web of creatures that provide biodiversity in your garden? Well, you don’t have to let your whole garden go wild; you can start out small. Just leave a section or two untrimmed or start in the backyard. Or settle some leaves under the branches of your shrubs.

You might try a combination of methods. Rake out some of the leaves from the beds that are simply too overwhelming onto the lawn. Then take your mulching mower and chop them up into small pieces. (Yes, using gas mowers is considered an unsustainable gardening practice, but consider the greater good.) Rake up the chopped leaves and place them back in the garden around shrubs and plants. Not surprisingly, they are greatly reduced in volume and contribute to a more manicured look. Do this as needed until the end of the season and the leaves will break down over the winter providing your soil with valuable nutrients all the while enhancing habitat.

Set yourself a goal of gardening more sustainably while trying to reach a balance between aesthetics and respecting the natural processes occurring in the landscape. After all, Mother Nature doesn’t have anyone carting out leaves to the curb. Our world desperately needs more environmental stewards, eco-gardeners working in harmony with nature and conserving natural resources. We ask you to become a litter bug; a Leaf Litter Bug, that is.

Do It Yourself Fall Planting: A Short Course


By Ann Farnham, LLA

Why plant trees in the fall? Among the reasons, consider that fall temperatures are more moderate than summer, rainfall is steadier, and it is easier to work outside on the cooler days. The trees in question are less likely to go through heat or drought shock and will have an opportunity to establish some root growth before winter. Inventory at nurseries and garden centers might be reduced in price as the company will not want the expense of overwintering the stock (beware, however, that you do not buy the leftovers, less desirable plants from the earlier season!). In this area, plan to plant your tree from early September to, ideally, 6 weeks before the expected first heavy frost, around the end of October or early November.

Inform yourself thoroughly before buying your tree. Is the exposure (sun, shade, wind direction) of your chosen site correct for this plant? Are the soil type and pH what the plant requires? Concrete walls. patios, and walkways, for example, can make the soil pH more alkaline than the surrounding area. Most trees do well in a pH between 5.5 and 6.5; evergreens and broad-leaved evergreens prefer some acidity in the soil. Is the drainage adequate? Be sure to check this. Dig an 18” test hole to see how long it takes for water to drain out of it. If it takes more than over night, you will need professional help to improve the drainage.

Are there buried utilities in that spot? Walls and fences might create a microclimate which will be too warm for your plant of choice. The soil at this planting time should have a temperature over 55º at 6“ deep. Take a soil sample for analysis; our local extension service will do this. Be sure that your downspouts do not drain into the site and that there is adequate room for the mature tree. Check the tree for bugs, broken or diseased limbs, a dried-out root ball or container, or “wobble” from the root ball or container, which indicates stem breakage or damage. Is the tree “root bound”? That is, are the roots in the container so crowded –from being too long in that sized container- that they encircle the inside of the container? Do roots come out of the drainage holes? This condition requires extra measures or another plant.

Once you’ve checked out all of this and for further instructions, look for planting details, drawings, and plant lists at our Fall Planting page.

The Ewing Environmental Commission welcomes suggestions for the Tree Topics from all Ewing residents. Email suggestions or questions to eec@ewingnj.org.

To calculate the value that trees add to your property, go to treebenefits.com/calculator/

By ewinggreenteam Posted in trees

Tree of Heaven – September 2016 Plant of the Month (Not!)

Doug Goldman, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Doug Goldman, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

by Ann Farnham, LLA

Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima

“Heaven” in this case does not mean “Heavenly”. On the contrary, this tree is a serious pest; the word “Heaven” is derived from the South Moluccan name Ailanto, which means a tree reaching for the sky.

Ailanthus altissima is native to China, Taiwan, and North Korea. It was first introduced to Europe in the 1740’s and to a Philadelphia gardener in 1784. It has since spread greatly and is now naturalized throughout most of the U.S.A., Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, and Africa. In this country it can be found from USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8A. This is reportedly the fastest growing tree in the United States, 3’ to 6’ per year, and it is difficult to control.

Why has it spread so successfully? When it was introduced to the U.S.A. it was used widely as a street tree, in spite of its very offensive odor (some compare it to cat urine, or worse), and it thrived because it required no care and people wanted the shade. It tolerates conditions almost impossible for other tress: very poor soils, a vast pH range, drought, and pollution such as sulfur dioxide, high salinity, low phosphorus, coal dust, cement dust, and ozone. In addition, it sends up new growth from cut trunks, resulting in countless, vigorous sprouts; new trees also come up from the underground stems (rhizomes) and the female tree is a prolific seed producer. The achene, the flat, reddish fruit 1 ½” long and ½” wide, is twisted, thin, and flat, containing one seed, and is very easily carried by wind as it spins. It germinates in cracked pavements, walls, disturbed sites, roadsides, and woodlots, crowding out all other vegetation. Underground pipes and sewer lines are frequently damaged by the trees’ roots. Ailanthus contains an allelopathic chemical which inhibits other plants’ growth, and the foliage is mildly toxic to foraging animals. Deer do not eat it, nor do birds and squirrels. The odor from both male and female trees often causes nausea and headaches in humans, and contact can cause skin rash. It is easy to understand why this plant is called “Arboreal riff-raff”. However, it was subject matter in the book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and it is mentioned by William Faulkner in Sanctuary.

Tree of Heaven will live about 50 years. It can reach a height of 40 to 60’, normally spreading to a width 2/3 that size. It has an upright, spreading habit and casts abundant shade. The compound leaves, 8 to 24” long, are arranged alternately on a stem, with 13 to 25 stalked, finely fuzzy, oval leaflets. The new leaves are bronzish-purple and mature to a dark green in summer. They have no fall color. When crushed, the leaves smell like rubber. The bark is light colored grey, with longitudinal, lighter streaks. The female trees usually flower in mid June, with yellow-green flowers arranged in panicles on an 18” to 24” stalk. The female flowers are odorless, but the male flowers stink as mentioned above, a smell which attracts pollinators.

Diseases and pests are minimal and do not create lasting damage.

Eradication is a challenge. A young seed sprout can probably be pulled up, but more mature specimens require cutting, and the resultant sprouts then should be treated with Glyphosate (Roundup) or an equivalent. Salt and vinegar and other homemade concoctions will not do the trick. If this tree appears in your yard, get to work!

Ailanthus has been used for “impossible situations”, such as eroded areas in mine runoff, but it is nonetheless regarded as having no landscape value. Extracts from the tree have been used in folk medicine, primarily by the Chinese, to address baldness, dysentery, mental illness, inflammatory conditions, and malaria, among others. The leaves have been used to grow silkworms and the fine-grained satiny wood can be used for cabinetry, although the uneven trunk texture-from rapid growth- causes cracking during drying. Most people feel that its best use is for firewood.

Do not confuse Ailanthus altissima with Black Walnut, Staghorn Sumac, or Ash, which have similar leaves. We addressed Ash in a recent Plant of the Month article, and will be writing about Staghorn Sumac (a non- invasive native which also grows prolifically on roadsides) and Black Walnut soon.

To learn more about invasive plants, go to nps.gov/plants/alien and www.maipic.org

The Ewing Environmental Commission welcomes suggestions for the Plant of the Month from all Ewing residents.

Wintercreeper Euonymus – August 2016 Plant of the Month (NOT!)

Euonymus fortunei

Euonymus fortunei

by Ann Farnham, LLA

Wintercreeper Euonymus, Euonymus fortunei

No! Don’t plant this!

Once again we visit the genus Euonymus, with another popular but very invasive species. Wintercreeper, Euonymus fortunei, is native in East Asia, China, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. It was discovered in China by the Scottish plant explorer Robert Fortune (1812-1880) and distributed widely after that time.

This plant is fast growing, evergreen, and very easy to grow; it tolerates most soils except swampy ones, has a wide pH tolerance, and does well in full sun to heavy shade. It thrives in USDA Hardiness zones 5 TO 8. Wintercreeper can be a ground cover, a vine, or a small shrub, depending on its care and culture. No wonder it is so popular, with dozens of varieties or cultivars in the trade.

The leaves can be dark green to bluish green; some varieties have silver veins, and some are variegated green and white, or green and yellow, and some turn dark purple in the winter. They are usually 1” long or less, oval shaped, have toothed margins, and are arranged oppositely on the stem. The mature plant, as can usually be seen at the top of a vining habit, has a differently shaped leaf. Only mature plants form flowers and set seed. The flower is inconspicuous.

However, it is a thug and it took a while to recognize this. The mature plant’s seeds are enjoyed and dispersed widely by birds, squirrels, and deer, among others. It is an attractive groundcover, 4-6” high, or a small shrub to 3’, but easily escapes from where it is wanted and forms very dense thickets which crowd out native plants; its vine form can climb trees to a height of 40 to 70’, killing the trees by smothering their foliage. Wintercreeper is found in most of the Eastern United States to Zone 8.

Euonymus fortunei is attractive not only to us gardeners, but to many insects and fungi as well. Scale is a very frequent problem as are Anthracnose, leaf spots, aphids and mildew.

To control Euonymus fortunei, first of all, don’t plant it, especially where it might escape or be eaten by wildlife. Plants in small areas can be removed by pulling it up by hand, being cautious not to leave roots behind; they will sprout. Large area infestations and vines crawling up trees can be controlled by cutting them down and then spraying or applying Glyphosate (Roundup®) immediately to the cut stems. Mowing or weed whacking definitely makes the matter worse.

To learn more about invasive plants, go to nps.gov/plants/alien and www.maipic.org

The Ewing Environmental Commission welcomes suggestions for the Plant of the Month from all Ewing residents.

Burning Bush – July 2016 Plant of the Month (NOT)

euonymousby Ann Farnham, LLA

Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus

No! Don’t plant this!

This very popular shrub, known also as Winged Euonymus, Winged Spindle, Wahoo, and Winged Spindle Tree, has been listed as invasive in 19 states, primarily in the Northeast, including New Jersey. It is banned in Massachusetts and New Hampshire but its destructive effects are present in most Eastern states where it has not been banned or declared invasive. Unfortunately, most garden centers and nurseries still offer it for sale.


Information| |Description = Euonymous Alatus in autumn colour |Source = self-made / en.wikipedia.org |Date = created 3. Oct. 2002 |Author = Chris Barton/Gif absarnt

Introduced from Northeastern Asia and China in the late 1800s, it has thrived here because it is very easy to grow, has few pests, and adapts to a very wide variety of soil types, moisture or drought, sun and shade (and non-green thumbed gardeners). Its outstanding fall color, a brilliant red, is also responsible for its popularity as a hedge, a specimen plant, and many other landscaping uses.

While the flowers are ornamentally insignificant, the attractive seeds are prolific and very viable from this self-pollinating plant. Birds and other berry-eating animals disperse them widely, where they form great thickets in woodlands and uncultivated sites, out-competing most native plants.

The term “winged” is based on the fact that many of the stems have corky “wings”. The leaves, 1 to 3” long and up to 1 ¼” wide, are simple and arranged oppositely on the stem; they are bit downy underneath. The spring and summer leaf colors are medium to dark green. Burning Bush might grow to 15-20’ in height but the growth rate after a fast spring flush is slow. There are many varieties today; most of them are shorter and more compact. The shrub’s habit is mounded-rounded.

To control Burning Bush, pull, dig or cut it out. If the plant is very large, cut it down and treat the stump immediately with glyphosate or another chemical weed killer, being very careful to follow instructions on the label.

Readily available native alternatives to Burning Bush are Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa, Highbush Blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum, and Fragrant Sumac,  Rhus aromatica.

Burning Bush has been touted as a cure or aid for many medical conditions through the years. Buyer beware!

To learn more about invasive plants, go to nps.gov/plants/alien and www.maipic.org.

The Ewing Environmental Commission welcomes suggestions for the Plant of the Month from all Ewing residents.

Come Walk/Bike With Us

walkingNew! Bi-Weekly trail meet-ups  starting July 9th

The Mercer County area is filled with wonderful places to walk, bike and hike so join Ewing’s Environmental Commission and Green Team for a casual bike ride and/or walk biweekly beginning Saturday, July 9th.  Our newly formed independent walking/hiking/biking club will meet to explore local and regional trails, enjoy nature, get a little exercise (at your own pace) and just have some fun. It is open to everyone.

Each meet-up will begin at the trail site. Then we’ll head out and use the trail together. Kids are welcome with an adult. Helmets are required for those biking the trail.  We love dogs so they are definitely welcome, on a leash.  Bring what you’ll need, such as:

  • comfortable walking shoes
  • an umbrella or light rain jacket
  • bicycle
  • helmet
  • water bottle
  • insect repellent (as needed)
  • dog-poop bags, etc.


The full schedule of planned meet-ups will be published shortly.  The first expedition is scheduled for Saturday, July 9, 7:00 a.m. starting at the Brearley House, a historic Georgian brick house built in 1761 in Lawrenceville.  We will walk north on the canal.


Take I95 to exit 8 for Princeton Pike Rd. north, go about a quarter mile and take a right onto Meadow Rd. and go about an eight of a mile to the end to Brearley House.

The second event is planned for July 23 at 7:30 a.m. at Baldpate Mountain. We will meet at the parking lot off Pleasant Valley Rd. entrance and then enjoy a moderate hike.  Baldpate is the highest point in Mercer and affords an excellent view of the river and the City of Trenton.


Take Rte. 31 North from Ewing (abt. 2 miles from I95- Rte. 31 interchange).  Then make a left turn onto Pennington Harbourton Rd. (appr. 3 mi.).  Continue on to Pleasant Valley Road for abou 1.2 mi.

Use your best judgment in case of inclement weather. Summer events will begin at 7:30 a.m. to avoid the heat. *Note: Once the cooler fall weather begins we’ll look into switching the time frame to a slightly later start time, depending on interest.


Invasive Forest Pests and the Threats to our Forests

Watch this excellent video from the Cary Institute about the threats to the health of our forests from invasive pests and their suggestions about what we can do to halt them.

Norway Maple – June 2016 Plant of the Month

norwaymapleleafby Ann Farnham, LLA

Norway maple, Acer platanoides

No! Don’t plant this!

This maple tree is seen almost everywhere in the United States north of Hardiness Zone 7 and west to Minnesota. Native to Europe, it has thrived in the U.S.A. since it was introduced in the 18th century to Philadelphia by John Bartram, an early American botanist and horticulturist.

Acer platanoides adapts to extremes in soil (acid or alkaline, clay, sand), compaction, hot and dry weather, air pollution, and either full sun to part shade. As a result, its toughness has contributed to over-use as a street tree (especially after the Elm tree die-out), lawn specimen, and park tree. It has become invasive, crowding out native plants in our woodlands and forests because of its heavy seed crop and high germination rate, and site adaptability. Pests and diseases (Powdery mildew, Verticillium wilt, Anthracnose, Leaf scorch,) have not diminished its spread but the recent arrival of the Asian long-horned beetle may change that for the Norway maple as well as for all the native maples.

Why has the Norway maple fallen out of favor? 1. It crowds out our native plants, about which we have become more appreciative and knowledgeable. 2. It is very shallow-rooted, starving other plants of moisture and sunlight, so nothing can grow under its wide canopy (especially lawn grass and most ground covers); the roots also heave sidewalks and streets. 3. It is fast growing and thereby brittle, causing extensive damage from breakage. Norway maple has been banned in New Hampshire, Maine, and New York.

This Maple is easily confused with our native Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum. They both have opposite, simple, 3 to 5 lobed, dark green, pointed leaves, but the Norway maple leaves are slightly larger, 4 to 7” across as opposed to the 3 to 6” Sugar Maple leaves. The Norway maple has a milky sap which can be extracted from its petioles (the leaf stalk) whereas the Sugar Maple sap is clear. The seeds in both species, samaras, are flattened, two-winged, and differ considerably as can be seen in the photographs.

Norway maple will occasionally reach 90’ in height although 40-50’ high is the average, with a spread 2/3 or equal to the height. It casts very deep shade. The fall foliage is usually yellow and the tree holds its leaves longer than other maples do. The wood is yellowish-white to pale red, and has been used for furniture making although the wood is reportedly not durable.

There are dozens of varieties of Norway maple which include a range of growth habits and leaf color, such as that of ‘Crimson King’ and ‘Dissectum’, which will doubtless continue to make this tree popular. Work is ongoing to develop sterile varieties.

To learn more about invasive plants, go to nps.gov/plants/alien and www.maipic.org

The Ewing Environmental Commission welcomes suggestions for the Plant of the Month from all Ewing residents.


Celebrating National Trails Day at the Johnson Trolley Trail

Celebrate National Trails Day on Saturday, June 4th with the dedication of the newly refurbished Johnson Trolley Trail (at the end of Whitehead Road Extension).  Join Mayor Bert Steinman and the Township Council at 10 a.m. at the ceremony opening the newly renovated Ewing portion of the Johnson Trolley Trail and then try it out…

The Johnson Trolley Trail is the bed of an old trolley, known as the “Fast Line,” run by the Trenton-Princeton Traction Company from appr. 1901/1940.  Fares were only 10¢. Today, you can walk or bike the right-of-way abandoned by the former trolley company for free on a restored trail.  The trail is split up into two sections, north and south, which are split by Interstate 95.  The Ewing section is the terminus of the southern section.  Restoration of this final piece under Ewing control has been completed.  Join us as we celebrate this historic addition to Ewing trails.

For more information about the restoration see our Trails page.