DEP PROPOSES WATER QUALITY IMPROVEMENTS FOR TWO NORTHEASTERN WATERSHEDS
(07/28) TRENTON - New Jersey is taking a major step toward improving water quality for the Passaic River and Pompton Lake-Ramapo River watersheds by proposing ecology-based limits for discharges of a pollutant that causes excessive aquatic plant growth, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson announced today.
“Phosphorus is a nutrient that is placing enormous stress on these watersheds,’’ Commissioner Jackson said. “It feeds the excessive growth of algae and other aquatic plants that can interfere with swimming, boating and general enjoyment of the rivers, lakes and reservoirs in the region.
“Setting discharge limits based on what the waterways can naturally assimilate will result in healthier ecosystems for wildlife and cleaner sources of drinking water for millions of people,’’ she said.
The proposal will affect more than 50 sewage treatment plants as well as numerous municipalities with regulated storm water discharge systems.
The biggest beneficiaries will be Wanaque Reservoir and Pompton Lake, areas that are crucial to the regional water supply, as well as the wide swath of the Passaic River above Dundee Dam. These areas are prone to excessive algae growth.
The two watersheds, covering 810 square miles, provide water to the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, the Passaic Valley Water Commission and the city of Newark.
Excessive amounts of algae can cause taste and odor problems in raw drinking water and force water-treatment plants to use disinfectants and oxidants, resulting in less efficient operations. In addition, die-offs from heavy growth of aquatic plants upset the ecological balance of waterways, robbing them of oxygen that supports fish and other aquatic life.
DEP has evaluated the waterways for their ability to handle pollutants from a number of different sources and set limits designed to improve water quality. The resulting limits are known as Total Maximum Daily Loads.
DEP has proposed Total Maximum Daily Load limits for phosphorus for facilities that discharge into the non-tidal Passaic River and its tributaries upstream of Dundee Dam. The tributaries include Dead River, Whippany River, Rockaway River and Pompton River.
The Department has proposed a second set of phosphorus TMDL limits for the Ramapo River and Pompton Lake watershed. Pompton Lake feeds into the Passaic River by way of the Pompton River.
DEP recognizes that successful implementation of policies to improve water quality will also depend on better controls for non-point source runoff. To that end, most municipalities in the watersheds will be required to adopt ordinances limiting the use of fertilizers that contain phosphorus. Many are already required to adopt other strategies, such as public education programs and pet waste disposal ordinances, under DEP’s municipal storm water regulation program.
A public hearing on the proposals will be held June 7 at the Cultural Center at Lewis Morris County Park, 300 Mendham Road, Morristown. An informational session begins at 6 p.m. followed by the formal hearing at 7 p.m.
The proposals appeared this week in the New Jersey Register. The proposals and supporting documents are available at www.nj.gov/dep/watershedmgt.
For more information on storm water and non-point source pollution, including model municipal ordinances, go to www.njstormwater.org.