Home > Uncategorized > Christie DEP Clean Water Act Report Shows That 99% of NJ Watersheds Fail to Meet Fishable and Swimmable Standards

Christie DEP Clean Water Act Report Shows That 99% of NJ Watersheds Fail to Meet Fishable and Swimmable Standards

Aquatic Life Support -color red  shows failure t protect aquatic life. Source: NJ DEP - 2014 draft Impaired Waters Report

Aquatic Life Support -color red shows failure to  protect aquatic life. Source: NJ DEP – 2014 draft Impaired Waters Report

Just one day after the Bergen Record published a controversial story about a USGS study that found dual sexed fish in the Wallkill River and Great Swamp, the DEP released a draft Clean Water Act Section 303(d) “impaired waters” Report for public comment (read the DEP documents here – hit the links and see if you can find your watershed or favorite stream, lake, river or Bay.)

Talk about good timing!

The federal Clean Water Act requires that States prepare, every 2 years, a water quality assessment and list of waters that do not meet the Clean Water Act’s fishable and swimmable goals, as measured by attainment of State Surface Water Quality Standards. SWQS are set to protect designated uses, and DEP develops methods to assess attainment of a designated use, e.g. aquatic life support, recreation, fishing, drinking water, etc.

The DEP is desperately trying to spin the draft 2014 Report as good news or maintenance of the status quo, but that dog don’t hunt – particularly on DEP’s continuing failure to declare Barnegat Bay “impaired”, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that it is..

Back in 2011, Governor Christie vetoed a bill that would have required DEP make an “impairment” determination based upon the available science.

That bill was re-introduced (S765) and released at the first 2016 Legislative session meeting of the Senate Environment Committee on January 25, 2016.

Rutgers scientist and world renowned expert professor Mike Kennish’s research has found that the Bay is clearly impaired and on the verge of ecological collapse: he testified the Bay was “suffering an insidious ecological decline“. Kennish presented that research in testimony to the Legislature, but DEP has ignored his work, tried to block public release of his research Report, and even attempted to smear him.

Here’s just one example of how DEP spins the data to avoid the conclusion that 99% of NJ watersheds do not meet Clean Water Act standards:

Statewide, 205 miles of rivers and streams, and 2,197 acres of lakes located within 14 of New Jersey’s 958 subwatersheds fully support all designated uses (except for fish consumption).

(* If 14 of 958 watershed meet all standards (1.46%), that means that 98.54% fail to support all designated uses, thus the 99% headline of this post. It actually could be worse, because the stream miles that fully support all designated uses are likely a subset of all stream miles in the particular 14 watersheds. I haven’t looked at the data, but I’m confident that the 205 miles of rivers and streams as a percentage of all river and stream miles would show a similar percentage, as would the 2,197 acees of lakes as a percentage of total acres of lakes. DEP hasn’t presented the data this way to frustrate or avoid these kind of conclusions. Read this DEP Report to illustrate how DEP know how to report data on river miles.).

[Update: According to DEP, there are 23,521 total river miles in NJ. That means less than 1% of stream & river miles fully support all designated uses – i.e. 205 miles of 23,521 total miles]

That is an appalling indicator of failure – and it doesn’t even include fish consumption risks, which would bring the failure rate to 100% – there is a statewide fish consumption advisory for mercury and all state waters do not meet the designated use for fish consumption due to unsafe levels of mercury in fish tissue.

And DEP did not even consider the risks of hundreds of unregulated chemical pollutants DEP knows are present in NJ’s waters, including the USGS study on dual sexed fish likely caused by unregulated chemicals that are endocrine disruptors reported by the Bergen Record.

Here are the documents that NJ DEP released today – the public comment period is just 30 days (a March 2 deadline) and there are no public hearings scheduled.

Lots of maps and stories here – I think it will take me 30 days just to read all this – we’ve asked EPA – who raised significant concern with DEP’s 2012 303(d) report – and NJ DEP for a 60 day extension of the 30 day (90 total) comment period and to  hold public hearings (3) across the state:

DEP wrote:

Current Status of the 2014 Integrated Report:

The draft 2014 303(d) List of Water Quality Limited Waters (303(d) List has been completed. The following documents are now available for public review and comment and may be downloaded from the links below. Comments must be submitted to Sandra Cohen at Sandra.Cohen@dep.nj.gov by March 2, 2016.

Links to maps displaying the spatial extent of key designated use assessment results are provided below – you might want to focus on the public water supply assessment map – too bad DEP did not identify the locations of surface water supply intake on that map:

Obviously more to follow on this.

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