Water Quality Standards Update

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Water Quality Standards Update
March 1, 2001
Area(s) of Practice:
Environmental Law

State Proposes New Surface Water Quality Standards
NJDEP proposed, on December 18, 2000, amendments to the Surface Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:9B, to restrict discharge standards and coordinate them with the State's developing watershed-based planning and management policies. The rules provide the strongest antidegradation protection to the highest quality ("Tier 3") water bodies by completely preventing new or increased discharges, and prohibit degradation of high quality ("Tier 2") water bodies by prohibiting reduction of any parameter to a standard that is less than that which will support existing uses. Other specific changes include:

  • Review of all proposed new or expanded discharges at the planning stage, as well as the permitting stage, as necessary, to determine compliance with the State's antidegradation policy.
  • Prohibition of regulatory mixing zones for discharges containing certain bioaccumulative chemicals and for other discharges in sensitive areas, and restriction of the spatial extent of regulatory mixing zones.
  • Revised ammonia criteria specific to surface water classifications.
  • Establishment of new lead standards for freshwater bodies.
  • Upgraded classification of certain streams that support trout species.

The rules on mixing zones may be affected by the upcoming federal regulations discussed in this issue.

The comment period for the proposed regulations ends on March 17, 2001.

Federal Mixing Zone Regulation for Discharge Permits

The United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"), having recently finalized its Total Maximum Daily Load ("TMDL") regulations under the federal Clean Water Act, is preparing to propose in 2001 federal regulations governing state mixing zone policies. Mixing zones are areas within water bodies in which pollutants discharged from pipes pursuant to Discharge Elimination System permits are allowed to mix at high concentrations and dilute before entering the surrounding water in safe concentrations. EPA currently is considering a full range of options for the proposed regulation, including a prohibition of mixing zones for bio-accumulative chemicals of concern in all instances, the approach EPA recently promulgated as part of the Great Lakes Initiative. EPA will provide a full opportunity for public comment and stake-holder input on the proposed regulations.