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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2007

Contact: Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994
Karen Hershey (609) 984-1795

DEP ISSUES STATEWIDE WATER QUALITY REPORT

(07/06) TRENTON - Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today released a comprehensive report describing the health of New Jersey's waters.

"There is tremendous competition for water resources in New Jersey, and everyone relies on government to protect the quality of our supplies," Commissioner Jackson said. "This report identifies waterways that need improvement and provides a framework for clean up strategies."

The 2006 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Assessment Report released today is the most complete assessment of the state's water quality, providing detailed information obtained from expanded DEP monitoring.

For this report, DEP evaluated waters based on their ability to support seven categories of designated uses: aquatic life, recreation, drinking water supply, fish consumption, shellfish harvest, industrial water supply and agricultural water supply. Waters that do not meet current water quality standards for these specific uses are considered impaired, or are impacted by some level of pollution. Factors that impact one water use do not necessarily impair other uses.

While the results are mixed, DEP's monitoring data show that many waters are not meeting DEP's water quality goals for aquatic life, fish consumption and freshwater recreational uses. However, most waters in the state are healthy enough to support drinking water supply, shellfish harvesting, and ocean beach recreational uses.

The primary pollutants affecting New Jersey's water quality include toxic contaminants mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in fish tissue, phosphorus (a nutrient) in freshwater, and disease-causing microbes (or pathogens) in our rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

The report also evaluates impacts from stormwater runoff, spills, improperly treated wastewater, and atmospheric deposition of pollutants from local, regional and national sources. Non-point source pollution, referring to contamination occurring from a wide variety of sources including pets, livestock, stormwater discharges, and fertilizers, is responsible for a significant portion of the water quality problems identified in the report.

As evidence of a positive trend, monitoring data show that between 1985 and 2004, nutrient concentration(s) and dissolved oxygen levels in freshwaters have improved or remained stable throughout the state. The levels of these water quality indicators are particularly important in sustaining healthy aquatic life.

The assessment released today contains the list of impaired waters in the state, sometimes referred to as the "303(d) list," named after the section of the Federal Clean Water Act in which it appears. Federal law mandates that states develop thresholds and limits to reduce the contaminant load in waterbodies that are impaired. DEP updates its 303(d) list of impaired waters every two years and submits the list to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

In addition to providing water resource managers and the public with information regarding the health of New Jersey's waters, the report identifies management strategies for improving overall water quality.

To view the full 2006 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, visit DEP's web site at: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/wms/bwqsa/generalinfo.html

 

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Last Updated: February 15, 2007