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Thursday, October 30, 2014

EPA Finalizes List of Polluted Water Bodies in New Jersey; PCBs, Arsenic, and Phosphorus are Most Common Pollutants

From Raritan Bay to the Maurice River in Cumberland County, New Jersey continues to struggle with meeting federal water standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the 2012 list of waters in New Jersey that are considered either impaired or threatened by pollutants. An impaired water body does not meet federally-approved water quality standards even after pollution controls have been put in place. A threatened water body is expected to be impaired within two years. The list helps establish regulatory priorities for addressing threats from water pollution.

“Identifying and prioritizing the state’s most seriously polluted waters are important steps in the effort to reduce water pollution,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “Since the Clean Water Act was adopted, water quality in New Jersey’s rivers, lakes and streams has improved, but we still have a very long way to go. By investing in infrastructure and by implementing green infrastructure to control stormwater runoff, communities throughout New Jersey can improve water quality. Also, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is tackling a decades-old problem by putting in place more stringent regulatory controls at combined sewage outfalls in the Camden and NY/NJ harbor areas. As New Jersey finalizes and fully implements these permits, we expect to see improvements in water quality.”

The most common pollutants causing impairment in New Jersey water bodies include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) (14% of impairments), arsenic (13%), phosphorus (9%), and low dissolved oxygen (8%). New Jersey’s 2012 list identifies 1770 instances in which a pollutant is causing an impairment of a water body that keeps it from supporting its “designated use” for drinking water, swimming and recreation, fishing or other activities specified by the state. Seventeen water body/pollutant combinations that were on New Jersey’s impaired waters list in 2010 were not included in the 2012 list, in many cases due to the work of state and local government agencies and local community groups to improve water quality.

The list notes the most common sources of water pollutants, which include urban/stormwater runoff, combined sewer overflows from systems that capture both domestic sewage and stormwater, and air pollution. A pollutant may come from more than one source.

The Clean Water Act requires states to assess the quality of their waters and to report their findings to the EPA every two years. The list is compiled by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and is a valuable tool for reaching the Clean Water Act goal of “fishable and swimmable” waters for all of New Jersey.

The list specifically includes impaired waters for which the development of budgets for the amount of water pollution allowed is necessary. The budgets define the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards. They are developed by states and approved by the EPA once the agency determines that the budget will allow the water body to achieve water quality standards.

A complete list of New Jersey’s impaired waters, including the Hackensack River, the Passaic River, and Lake Hopatcong is available at:

Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.