New Jersey DEP Announces Tougher Water Pollution Limits

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell has announced new, proposed pollution limits, targeting fecal coliform and phosphorus that cause water quality impairments in more than 155 miles/550 acres of waterways across the state.

"This is one more tough action that continues New Jersey's commitment to safeguard water resources for residents and future generations," said Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey. "Identifying sources and reducing pollutants is an important step in ensuring New Jersey has safe and healthy water for drinking and recreational activities."

Total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) are developed for those waters of the state that do not currently meet water quality standards. In developing a TMDL, DEP identifies the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can contain and still meet New Jersey's water quality standards. The TMDL then assesses the existing pollutant load in the stream and identifies sources of that pollutant. The TMDL goes on to establish the reduction in pollution load for each source that is necessary to restore water quality to comply with state standards. Lastly, DEP develops an implementation plan to achieve those reductions.

New Jersey now proposes strengthened pollution limits through additional 23 TMDLs aimed at reducing fecal coliform and phosphorus.

"Phosphorus and fecal coliform are pollutants that degrade our water quality, and our ability to enjoy natural treasures like Swartswood Lake," Campbell said. "The pollutant and its sources will be identified and eliminated to restore New Jersey's impaired waterbodies to safe and healthy waters that serve as sanctuaries for wildlife and offer swimming, fishing and boating opportunities."

The 23 approved TMDLs that address more than 155 total miles and 550-acres are located in five watershed regions including: Atlantic Coastal, Lower Delaware, Northeast, Northwest and Raritan. Water quality will be restored with strict requirements for fecal coliform pollution reductions of 21 to 98 percent and phosphorus reductions of 50 to 53 percent. The DEP will achieve the targeted reductions by addressing the sources for fecal coliform and phosphorus including failing septic systems.

The impairment for 20 of the TMDLs is fecal coliform. Fecal coliform usually comes from human waste, animal waste, agricultural fertilizers and wildlife. Sewage treatment facilities are potential sources of fecal coliform because of equipment failure or operational problems that can result in the discharge of untreated sewage, state officials said. To implement the TMDL plan the DEP will track the source of the pollutant and implement tailored measures to control the source and restore water quality.

The pollutant for three of the TMDLs is total phosphorus. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants and algae, but it is considered a pollutant when it stimulates excessive growth causing algae impairments to the lake in the form of algae blooms or excessive growth of aquatic plants. The TMDL will focus on reducing and eliminating phosphorus sources, to restore Swartswood Lake to acceptable surface water quality standards.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) established section 303(d) that requires states to prepare and submit a report that identifies waters that do not meet water quality standards. This list is known as the 303(d) list. The waterbodies on the 303(d) list have impaired water quality and the state is required to develop a TMDL for each pollutant in these waterbodies by priority. The DEP updates its 303(d) list of impaired waters every two years and submits the list to the EPA for approval. New Jersey then targets these waterbodies to reduce and eliminate the source of both point source pollution and nonpoint source (NPS) pollution contributing to the degradation of water quality.

Point source pollution enters waterbodies from known outfall locations including municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants and stormwater discharges (that require a permit under the Clean Water Act). Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution refers to pollution that runs into ground water sources, waterways, and oceans from wet weather runoff carrying pollution from sources including fertilizers, pet waste, motor oil and litter.

For more information about New Jersey's watersheds visit

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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