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DRBC To Hold October Informational Meetings On Proposed Water Quality Rulemaking To Protect The Tidal Delaware River And Bay
October 8 Public Hearing Also Scheduled

For Immediate Release

September 14, 2009

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) -- The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) will hold meetings on October 1 in Norristown, Pa. and October 6 in Bordentown, N.J. to inform the public about proposed regulatory changes to revise human health water quality criterion for PCBs in the Delaware River downstream of Trenton, N.J. and the Delaware Bay. An implementation plan for achieving this criterion also will be discussed.

The October 1 meeting will take place at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Southeast Regional Office, 2 East Main Street, in Norristown. The October 6 meeting in Bordentown will be held at the Rutgers EcoComplex, 1200 Florence-Columbus Road. Both public meetings will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will include presentations by DRBC staff as well as a question and answer period.

In addition, the DRBC announced that a formal hearing to accept public testimony on the proposal will be held at 1:30 p.m. on October 8 at the commission’s office building located at 25 State Police Drive in West Trenton, N.J. Unlike the two public informational meetings, this will be an opportunity for the public to offer testimony and will not include formal presentations or a question and answer period. Written comments will be accepted through October 19. Following a review of all public comments, final action by the commissioners on the proposed rulemaking will likely occur at the DRBC’s December 9, 2009 business meeting.

Written comments should be mailed to Commission Secretary, DRBC, P.O. Box 7360, 25 State Police Drive, West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360, faxed to “Attn: Commission Secretary” at (609) 883-9522, or emailed to paula.schmitt@drbc.state.nj.us. All written comments must be received by 5 p.m. on October 19, 2009, and should include the name, address, and affiliation (if any) of the commenter, along with "PCB Rulemaking" in the subject line.

PCBs are a class of chemicals present in the waters of the tidal Delaware River and Delaware Bay, also referred to as the Delaware Estuary, at concentrations up to 1,000 times higher than the water quality criteria and have been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable human carcinogen. The U.S. banned the manufacture and new use of PCBs in the late 1970s, but the chemical stability of these compounds has allowed them to persist in the environment. PCBs enter fish through absorption or by ingestion of prey and accumulate in their tissues at levels many times higher than in the surrounding water, prompting fish consumption advisories to be issued by Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

The current DRBC water quality criteria for PCBs to protect human health in the tidal Delaware were established in 1996, vary by location, and pre-date the collection of additional studies on PCBs in the estuary. DRBC currently has no PCB water quality criterion for the Delaware Bay; however, New Jersey and Delaware have established a criterion of 64 picograms per liter for this water body. 

Rigorously applying the most current available data and EPA methodology, the DRBC’s Toxics Advisory Committee in July 2005 completed development of a new human health water quality criterion for PCBs of 16 picograms per liter for the entire Delaware Estuary. Later that year, the DRBC authorized the solicitation of public input on this updated water quality criterion, but first requested that the commission’s executive director develop a strategy for implementing criteria for bioaccumulative pollutants such as PCBs. These pollutants are particularly problematic since their association with the sediments of a river or bay can prevent achieving the updated criteria for decades. 

Following meetings in 2006 and 2007, a small workgroup of DRBC and EPA staff began work on the details of such a plan. An exhaustive effort culminated during 2008 with the completion of an approach called the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Implementation Plan for PCBs. 

The revised PCB human health water quality criterion will be used as the basis for the Stage 2 TMDLs that will be developed by DRBC staff and expected to be established by EPA in December 2009. The implementation plan will be included as an appendix to the Stage 2 TMDL report.

A TMDL sets the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive without violating applicable water quality criteria and allocates that amount among sources in the watershed – both point (end-of-pipe) and non-point (runoff). Dischargers must reduce loads to the allocated levels in order to achieve and maintain the criteria.

The DRBC was formed in 1961 by compact among the four basin states (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) and the federal government. Its five members include the basin state governors and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Division, who serves as the federal representative. The creation of the commission marked the first time in our nation's history that the federal government and a group of states joined together as equal partners in a river basin planning, development, and regulatory agency.

For more information about the proposed rulemaking, including the full text of the proposed amendments, implementation plan, background document, and driving directions to the meeting locations, visit the DRBC’s web site at www.drbc.net.


Contact: Kate O'Hara, DRBC, 609-883-9500 ext. 205, katharine.o'hara@drbc.state.nj.us