PCBs, arsenic and phosphorus are the most common pollutants found in New Jersey water bodies
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.
“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,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck.
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/storm water runoff, combined sewer overflows from systems that capture both domestic sewage and storm water 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.
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.