Home > Uncategorized > Science Advisory Board Makes Findings on DEP Nitrogen Model

Science Advisory Board Makes Findings on DEP Nitrogen Model

Potential Good News For Bays, Estuaries, and Coastal Streams – Bad News for Highlands

The controversial Science Advisory Board recently issued important findings regarding DEP’s current nitrate dilution model.

The model is used in various DEP planning, land use, and water quality regulatory programs.

The model is used to determine development potential and the allowable density of septic systems, and thus has a huge impact on land use and water quality.

The model and its applications have been under attack by builders for many years.

Yet environmentalists claim it is flawed, fails to consider adverse ecological impacts of nitrogen, and allows far too much development to occur that pollutes surface and groundwater resources.

A variant of the model is implemented as the basis for the controversial 88 acre “septic density standard” in the Highlands.

The Farm Bureau sued to block that Highlands standard. But that attack was rejected by an Administrative Law judge and affirmed by the Corzine DEP Commissioner.

But, as the Farm Bureau case moved into the Court’s, current Christie DEP Commissioner Bob Martin agreed to reconsider the standard and requested a delay in the Court case. (for details and links to documents, see: Is Bob Martin Sabotaging The Highlands Septic Density Standard?

To mask a transparent direct attack on the Highlands, as a part of the Farm Bureau litigation reconsideration, Martin charged the SAB with a broader series of science, regulatory, and policy questions regarding the DEP’s nitrate dilution model.

But Martin ignored the fact that the SAB was designed to stick to the science, and stay out of policy and regulatory issues.

Now, in response to Martin’s questions, the SAB provides several findings that involve science, policy, and regulation. Dangerously, the SAB findings may serve as a pretextual scientific basis to unravel the Highlands septic density standard in the DEP Highlands regulations.

I will discuss those technical issues in detail in a subsequent post.

But for today, we need to make one narrower but important point made by the SAB.

This narrower focus is timely, in light of the discussion on Kirk Moore’s Pinelands story about water quality studies to support Barnegat Bay “Special Area Management Plan” (SAMP).

We have argued for a Clean Water Act “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) as the vehicle to address the Bay’s ecological collapse.

But Governor Christie vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature that would have mandated a TMDL for the Bay.

We have called on EPA to mandate a TMDL, given NJ’s continuing gross violation of the Clean Water Act and prior TMDL commitments with EPA.

We believe there are many reasons why this science based TMDL regulatory stick is preferable to the current Barnegat Bay Partnership locally driven management model and Christie Administration’s voluntary SAMP approach.

Now the SAB agrees with us.

The SAB findings explicity supported the TMDL approach for Barnegat Bay and coastal plain streams. The SAB found:

The most sensitive receptors for for excess nitrate are likely to be estuaries and low nutrient coastal plain streams. Given the nature of estuaries, a load-based regulatory approach (TMDL type approach) would make the most sense. Such an approach, furthermore, would be based on total nitrogen, not nitrate alone. (@ page 8)

We will be closely watching how Commissioner Martin implements these SAB findings. They have tremendous implications. More to follow.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
You must be logged in to post a comment.