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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: 11/13/00
133/00
CONTACT: Loretta O’Donnell or Amy Collings
609-984-1795 or 609-292-2994

DEP PROPOSES IMPROVED STANDARDS TO PROTECT SURFACE WATER

Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn today announced a proposal to upgrade the state's surface water quality standards to further protect human health and aquatic life, and achieve cleaner water statewide.

"These standards will protect threatened species and all fresh waters in New Jersey as potential sources of public drinking water supplies for now and the future," the Commissioner said. "This proposal builds upon the Governor's open space initiative, and our efforts to control sprawl and protect our natural resources through measures such as the Water Quality and Watershed Management rules."

The updated Surface Water Quality Standards, in conjunction with the Water Quality and Watershed Management rules, will expand several policies to further protect waterways and threatened and endangered species by prohibiting degradation of surface water quality. The standards are the basis for the watershed management rules. Water quality must meet the standards, or maintain water quality that is above the standards.

The revised standards establish water quality criteria for wastewater discharges based on the natural characteristics of New Jersey's surface waters and aquatic life.

"The proposal sets strong anti-degradation policies. All new and expanded discharges must strive to maintain high quality water and all dischargers must ensure that threatened and endangered species are protected," Shinn said.

The Stevens Institute of Technology, which conducted an independent review of the proposed revision, concluded that the rule will improve the implementation process of the standards, will protect human health and aquatic species, and "will have a positive impact on the quality of the State's watersheds."

In addition, with respect to revisions for arsenic, phosphorus and PCBs, the Stevens Institute's report says, "We believe that adoption of these changes will improve implementation of the criteria for these parameters and will further reduce their environmental impacts."

All dischargers will be required to comply with the new standards, once adopted. The proposal also directs dischargers to use environmental impact analyses, pollution prevention techniques, alternative treatment technologies and best management practices.

The stricter policies include:

  • All new and expanded discharges must not degrade surface water quality;
  • Additional protection of stream areas around intake pipes for drinking water;
  • New standards for lead to further protect aquatic life in fresh and salt water;
  • More stringent ammonia criteria during summer months to protect fish species during the critical early growth stages;
  • Prohibition of new or expanded discharges containing certain persistent chemicals such as mercury, PCBs and chlordane.

The revisions also strengthen language to reinforce the policy that streams classified as having the highest water quality, or "outstanding natural resources," must be maintained in their natural state and not be subject to wastewater discharges or increases in runoff from manmade activities.

The standards also will upgrade the classification of nine streams that are now supporting sensitive fish species, to meet higher standards ensuring that they continue to support these sensitive species such as Brook and Brown Trout. These are in addition to the 17 streams upgraded with the last reclassification in 1998.

The waterways to be upgraded are in four river basins in Hunterdon, Morris, Sussex and Warren counties. In the Delaware River Basin they are: Delawanna Creek, Lopatcong Creek (Phillipsburg), Spring Mills Brook (Milford), and Warford Creek (Barbertown). In the Passaic River Basin: Mill Brook (Randolph), Pequannock River (Hardyston), and Russia Brook tributaries. In the Raritan River Basin: Bushkill Brook in Flemington. In the Wallkill River Basin, the Mud Pond Outlet Stream in Hamburg.

The proposed update retains existing criteria for phosphorus and arsenic. Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient that can result in excessive algae growth. The rules allow for watershed-specific standards to be developed based on the natural ecology of the area. Through watershed management, abatement from both point source discharges and non-point sources of pollution such as runoff from roads, developments and farms will be developed to meet the existing or watershed-specific criteria. The mineral arsenic also is naturally occurring and background levels vary across the state.

In addition to supporting the above revisions for improved water quality, the Stevens Institute also reported that the changes in ammonia and lead criteria are more appropriate for protecting fish.

The proposed standards are the result of two years of meetings between DEP and a large group of stakeholders including municipalities, environmental groups, water purveyors, businesses, and federal and state agencies.

"We at the Passaic River Coalition advocated a strong anti-degradation element and this rule assures that pollution is not tolerated in New Jersey. The anti-degradation section is a major step toward improving and maintaining water quality in the State. Safeguards for drinking water have been established which are meaningful anti-degradation measures, said Executive Administrator Ella Filippone.

"We want to thank all the stakeholders for their input which was instrumental in developing the draft revisions. The stakeholder meetings were a very important part of the process, and we look forward to hearing further from interested parties during the public comment period," Shinn said.

"Throughout the meetings of the Public Advisory Committee, the New Jersey Water Supply Authority has focused on two critical parts of the rule. First, that public water supply intakes and reservoirs be stringently protected. DEP's proposal would establish a new protective zone around these supplies that will prevent degradation. Second, we wanted a workable approach to keep high quality waters in good shape. DEP's proposal emphasizes prevention and mitigation, before any changes in quality are allowed. In both cases, we see major improvements over the existing rule", said Dan Van Abs, Manager, Watershed Protection, New Jersey Water Supply Authority.

With Governor Whitman's watershed initiative, DEP began watershed management planning to further improve water quality by reducing non-point source pollution that had been previously unregulated. DEP is working with each of the state's 20 watershed management areas to develop specific plans to control various non-point pollution sources such as stormwater runoff from pesticides, fertilizers, animal wastes, and oil and gas from streets and parking lots.

"Clean water doesn't happen by accident. We have established partnerships with local, county, and regional organizations to form committees for developing these comprehensive watershed management plans that will set strategies for reducing water pollution from all sources," said Shinn.

The proposed revisions will be published in the New Jersey Register on Dec. 18 with a 90-day public comment period ending March 17. Two public hearings will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 10, at 6:30 p.m. at Gloucester County College, Lecture Room 430, Tanyard Road, Sewell, and on Thursday, Jan. 18, from 3-5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Rutgers University Douglass College Center, 100 George Street, New Brunswick.

After review of all comments, final standards will be submitted to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for approval and published in the Register for adoption in 2001.

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