Hundreds of miles of waterways in the Garden State will soon be upgraded to Category One status, which means they’ll be used for drinking water as well as for recreation, and and be better protected from pollution.

According to Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the change in designation for 749 miles of rivers and streams around the state means those waterways are cleaner than they used to be.

“It’s a great sign that water quality is improving, but also it’s a great sign for the future that we’ll be able to put in place protections that will protect this water for future generations," Hajna said.

Currently 6,800 miles of waterways in the Garden State meet higher water quality criteria and have the Category One designation, while all other waterways are listed as Category Twp.

According to the DEP, the waters flow through 67 municipalities within the Upper Delaware, Lower Delaware, Northwest, Raritan and Atlantic Coastal regions. Among the waterways to be classified are portions of the Pequest River in Warren County, the Salem River in Salem County, the South Branch of the Raritan River in Somerset and Hunterdon counties, the Lamington River in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, and the Ramapo River in Bergen County.

Hajna asaid many waterways are getting cleaner in New Jersey because there have been focused efforts for decades “to improve water quality through tight discharge requirements on wastewater treatment plants.”

He noted there are ongoing efforts to control stormwater runoff and stop a variety of pollutants from being carried into the state’s waterways.

“New Jersey has some pretty strict programs in place, and very progressive programs in place to address things like runoff from development, better stormwater controls," Hajna said.

The proposed redesignation will be discussed during a public hearing April 8 at the New Jersey Forensic Science Technology Center at 1200 Negron Drive in Hamilton at 1 p.m.

This marks the first time in more than a decade that the state has redesignated waterways to this high level of protection.

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