STEADFAST IN COMMITMENT TO PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT,
CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION FILES DELAWARE DEEPENING APPEAL
(11/P66) TRENTON - In continued demonstration of its commitment to protecting New Jersey's environment, the Christie Administration this week filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals seeking to overturn lower court rulings that would allow the deepening of the Delaware River to move forward despite a lack of updated environmental impact studies.
"We remain steadfast in our belief that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must be compelled to openly and thoroughly assess the impacts that deepening the shipping channel would have on the ecology of the river, including impacts to South Jersey's wetlands," Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said today. "It is irresponsible for the Army Corps to move ahead with this project without addressing New Jersey's concerns and without completely updating testing for contaminants."
If the project moves ahead, millions of tons of sediments would be dumped in confined disposal facilities along ecologically sensitive creeks and wetlands in Gloucester and Salem counties
The appeal, filed in the Third Circuit in Philadelphia by the Attorney General's Office, seeks to overturn rulings by U.S. District Court judges in New Jersey and Delaware who dismissed New Jersey's demand for new studies. The Army Corps' Philadelphia District is responsible for planning and implementing the project to deepen the river's 102-mile shipping channel between Camden and the mouth of Delaware Bay.
New Jersey argues the Army Corps violated conditions of the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and Coastal Zone Management Act by failing to perform new environmental impact analyses that would address changes in the deepening project and provide more and complete testing of contaminants in river sediments. The majority of the Army Corps' environmental analyses were done in 1997, with limited updates.
DEP testing shows river sediments contain elevated levels of PCBs, metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other contaminants.
The state's appeal notes that the Army Corps relied on limited and outdated data, largely of sediment samples taken from routine maintenance dredging, and did not adequately sample sediments from channel bends and side banks, areas that are likely to be the most contaminated.
In fact, the Army Corps failed to review the limited samples it did have from these areas even though the DEP pointed out this deficiency and questioned the reasonableness of relying on sampling of sediments from routine maintenance dredging.
In addition, the DEP reviewed Army Corps testing of effluent discharged from sediments the Corps placed last year at the Killcohook Confined Disposal Facility in Salem County as part of the first phase of the deepening project, a 12-mile stretch in Delaware waters. The DEP review found elevated levels of selenium, copper, mercury, aluminum and cyanide that could affect surface water quality in the area, located near a federal wildlife refuge.
"Simply put, the Army Corps needs to start using sound science and being forthright with the state and the public about its findings," Commissioner Martin said. "The residents of New Jersey and the Delaware River deserve nothing less."
For a copy of the appeal, go to: http://www.nj.gov/dep/docs/20110518delaware.pdf