Trenton — Nearly one thousand water-bodies across New Jersey are too dirty for fishing or swimming, according to the latest agency figures posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Many of the 970 polluted lakes, rivers, bays and estuaries serve as drinking water sources, habitat for fish and shellfish, and recreation for hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents.
Water pollutants include nutrients such as phosphorus; toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, and lead; pesticides; toxic chemicals including PCBs and dioxin; and pathogens such as fecal coliform bacteria. One direct result of this pollution has been a rise in the number, scope and severity of health advisories against consuming local fish or shellfish.
“Given how bad this news is, no wonder the state tried to low ball this report,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, noting that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which issues news releases on a daily basis did not feature this new report in any press statements. “Setting aside the technical details, the quality of state waters is getting worse each year while the state sits on its thumbs.”
Under the federal Clean Water Act, New Jersey is required, every two years, to prepare and submit to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a list of polluted or “water quality limited waters.” This list has been known as the Impaired Waters or “303(d) List” (after the Clean Water Act subsection requiring it).
This formal listing has significant regulatory implications. For example, development in polluted watersheds must be more strictly regulated by DEP as well to control “non-point” source pollution. Sewage treatment plants and industrial pollution discharges to listed waters must also be more strictly regulated. In addition, these dischargers must upgrade their plants to install additional pollution controls.
The existence of new state list first appeared in a New Jersey Register notice on May 1 which indicated that the only public hearing would be held only three days later – today, May 4th. PEER has written to ask EPA to intervene and direct the state to allow meaningful public review and comment on this important Clean Water Act report.
Today’s “information session” is being held at the DEP Public Hearing Room at 401 East State Street, Trenton, starting at 3:30PM. Written comments may be submitted to DEP until May 31, 2006 to:
Bureau of Water Quality Standards and Assessment
PO Box 409
401 East State Street
Trenton NJ 08625
New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability