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Ground Water Quality Standards Rulemaking Actions

Current Rules

The current Ground Water Quality Standards (GWQS) rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9C were adopted on July 7, 2008 (see 40 N.J.R. 3992(a)). The official version of the current rules is available at the State of New Jersey Office of Administrative Law's Web site at http://lexisnexis.com/njoal/.

The Department provides an unofficial version of all existing and proposed Department rules and accompanying public notices on the Department's Rules and Regulations Web page, along with unofficial versions of previous rule proposals and adoptions. Generally, changes to the ground water quality criteria are promulgated through the rulemaking process. However, the GWQS provide for certain updates to the criteria to be made without rulemaking through an administrative process, as explained further below. All proposals, adoptions, amendments, and administrative changes to the GWQS rules since 2002 are documented in the GWQS Rules Archives.

Previous Proposals and Adoptions

The New Jersey GWQS rules were originally adopted in January 1993 as N.J.A.C. 7:9- 6.1 et seq. The rules were readopted without change in January 1996 and would have expired in 2001 but were extended until the 2005 readoption and recodification became effective. The GWQS rules were readopted and recodified on November 7, 2005 (37 N.J.R. 4226(b)).

2004 Proposal and 2005 Adoption

Amendments to the GWQS rules proposed by the Department in 2004 and adopted in 2005 included updates to language and outdated references throughout the rule, revised subsections concerning criteria derivation, and updates to many of the health-based criteria and practical quantitation levels for specific ground water pollutants listed in the GWQS based on more recent scientific information on risk assessment and analytical capability. In addition, interim specific criteria developed and used by the Department since 1993 were codified as specific criteria in Appendix Table 1. Additional technical detail regarding the ground water quality criteria was provided by the Department in a Basis and Background document for the rule. A summary table is available that lists the previous ground water quality standards compared to the readopted standard.

2007 Proposal and 2008 Adoption

Amendments to the GWQS rules proposed by the Department in 2007 and adopted in 2008 deleted the antidegradation limits established previously at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.8(b) through (e) and replaced them with new implementation procedures at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.8(b)1 through 5, thus establishing the water quality conditions to be maintained that correspond with the different ground water classifications and their designated uses. The new antidegradation policy applies equally to Class II and Class III ground water, in order to protect existing ground water quality from significant degradation.  These amendments also prohibit any new or expanded discharge to ground water in the Highlands Preservation Area that is not in conformance with the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:38.

These amendments were adopted concurrently with amendments to the Water Quality Management Planning (WQMP) rules at N.J.A.C. 7:15. By amending the WQMP rule in conjunction with the GWQS rule, the Department extended the GWQS antidegradation policy beyond NJPDES-permitted facilities. For new and expanded discharges to ground water from domestic treatment works, evaluation of compliance with the antidegradation policy will be conducted at two scales. A regional evaluation will be conducted through the WQMP process, which will allow for consideration of secondary and cumulative impacts on a watershed (i.e., HUC 11) basis, such as from a large-scale development. Placement of the proposed domestic treatment works will not be addressed in the regional evaluation. Therefore, once the regional evaluation had been completed, a site-specific evaluation will also be required, through the NJPDES discharge to ground water permitting process pursuant to existing N.J.A.C. 7:14A, to demonstrate that the permitted discharge will maintain existing ground water quality that is better than criteria.

These amendments also establish nitrate as a surrogate for the constituents in domestic wastewater, based on the Department's determination that 2 mg/L nitrate is representative of existing ground water quality Statewide, for the purpose of evaluating compliance with the proposed antidegradation policy at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.8(a) for new and expanded domestic treatment works that discharge to Class II and Class III ground water.

Updating Ground Water Quality Criteria

The Department may update specific ground water quality criteria listed in Appendix Table 1 through rulemaking. Rule proposals, along with any basis and background information, are published in the New Jersey Register and posted on the Department's Rules and Regulations Web page, unless the criteria can be established as Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria or revised through an Administrative Change, as explained below.

Establishing Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria

The GWQS rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7(c)2 state that the Department may establish interim specific ground water quality criteria for constituents not listed on Appendix Table 1 of the GWQS by posting them on the Department's Web site along with supplemental information used in their derivation. These interim specific ground water quality criteria are developed in accordance with the procedures listed at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7. The Department updates the list of Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria on its Web site as new information becomes available. If the Department determines that insufficient information is available to derive a health-based criterion for a constituent, the interim generic ground water quality criteria listed in Appendix Table 2 of the GWQS applies.

Administrative Change

The Department may also update the ground water quality criteria listed at Appendix Table 1 of the GWQS through an administrative change to the rules when the USEPA revises the carcinogenic slope factor or reference dose data contained in the USEPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database on which a specific ground water quality criterion in Appendix Table 1 is based, or when the Department adopts a new or revised Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) in the Safe Drinking Water Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:10. Ground water quality criteria revised as an administrative change are updated in Appendix Table 1 upon filing with the Office of Administrative Law. Notices of Administrative Change are posted on the Department's Rules and Regulations Web page for six months.

For more information about the GWQS Program, please contact the Bureau of Water Quality Standards and Assessment, at (609) 777-1753.

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Department of Environmental Protection
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