Home > Uncategorized > NJ Senate Urged To Conduct Legislative Oversight Of Major Shift In Focus By NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute To Algae Blooms

NJ Senate Urged To Conduct Legislative Oversight Of Major Shift In Focus By NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute To Algae Blooms

DWQI Issues Request For Public Comment After Shift To Algae Blooms Was Announced

Hundreds of toxic industrial chemicals in drinking water remain unregulated

Yesterday, literally hours after I posted my critique of their major shift in policy to algae blooms, the DWQI issued a solicitation for public comment:

Dear Interested Party,

The Drinking Water Institute has issued the below call for public input for research on cyanotoxins.


Please send any data or information pertinent to cyanotoxins to the Department at DWQI@dep.nj.gov by 5 PM on January 31, 2022.

Additional information, and presentations from the December 8 DWQI meeting can be found at


The solicitation for public comment was made after the decision to shift focus to algae blooms (i.e.cyanotoxins) was already made and publicly announced as a fait accompli.

Just as bad, the DWQI solicitation is extremely narrow in scope, limited to issues regarding the science and data on cyanotoxins, as opposed to whether the DWQI should even investigate cyanotoxins – as opposed to other unregulated chemicals – or whether they are authorized to do so.

To strongly object and block this move, I wrote the following letter to Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith:

Dear Chairman Smith – I am writing to request that you conduct legislative oversight under the NJ Safe Drinking Water Act concerning a recent significant change in policy announced by the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI), as recently reported by NJ Spotlight.

Apparently, the DWQI is shifting focus from their traditional primary focus on anthropogenic chemical contaminants towards the chemical byproducts of harmful algae blooms (i.e. cyanotoxins).

This DWQI shift in focus comes despite the facts that:

1) there is a huge backlog of prior DWQI MCL recommendations to DEP that DEP has ignored and not adopted Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL’s) for, including perchlorate and more than a dozen hazardous contaminants;

2) DEP, DWQI and the USGS have documented hundreds of known unregulated chemical contaminants in NJ drinking water with unknown health effects, including pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting chemicals:

3) Following a 2004 DEP formal solicitation of public comment in the NJ Register, in a 2010 Report, DEP recommended a shift in focus and methodology at the DWQI away from a single chemical risk assessment based MCL development approach towards a “treatment based approach”:

4) the shift in focus raises questions about legislative authorization and legislative intent under the NJ Safe Drinking Water Act;

5) the shift in focus was made unilaterally by the DWQI and announced as a fait accompli in the absence of any public review process or opportunity for public comment;

6) the shift in focus was made in the absence of any comparative risk based framework or other valid science based methodology to justify such a radical shift in policy; and

7) the shift in focus appears to have been made without adequate scientific basis of scientific peer review.

The DWQI has very limited resources. This shift in focus to cyanotoxins will make it impossible to investigate far more serious drinking water risks from unregulated contaminants.

I urge you to conduct legislative oversight and consider legislation to limit the DWQI authority over investigations of the byproducts of natural biological processes, like production of cyanotoxins in source water. Prevention and regulation of eutrophication and harmful algae blooms is more appropriately led by DEP pursuant to clean water laws and various DEP land use and water resource programs.

I also urge you to consider new legislation, if necessary, to mandate that DEP and DWQI adopt the “precautionary principle”; adopt a “treatment based approach”; and otherwise regulate hundreds of unregulated chemicals known to be present in drinking water.

See below my comments to the DWQI in response to their narrow request for public comment, which absurdly was issued AFTER the shift in focus to cyanotoxins was announced.


Bill Wolfe

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