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Ground Water Quality Standards Rulemaking Actions

Current Rules

The current Ground Water Quality Standards (GWQS) rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9C were readopted and recodified on November 7, 2005 (37 N.J.R. 4226(b)). The official version of the current rules (as well as the proposal discussed below) is available at the State of New Jersey Office of Administrative Law's Web site at:

The Department also provides an unofficial version of the existing and proposed rules and accompanying public notices on the Department's Rules and Regulations Web page. Hyperlinks on this page for the existing and proposed rules link to these courtesy copies. Unofficial versions of all previous rule proposals and adoptions since 2002 are available for review in the Rules Archives.

Generally, changes to the ground water quality criteria are promulgated through the rulemaking process. However, the GWQS provide for certain updates to the criteria to be made without rulemaking through an administrative process, as explained further below.

Previous Proposals and Adoptions

The New Jersey GWQS rules were originally adopted in January 1993 as N.J.A.C. 7:9- 6.1 et seq. The rules were readopted without change in January 1996 and would have expired in 2001 but were extended until the 2005 readoption and recodification became effective.

2004 Proposal and 2005 Adoption

Amendments to the Ground Water Quality Standards rules proposed by the Department in 2004 and adopted in 2005 included updates to language and outdated references throughout the rule, revised subsections concerning criteria derivation, and updates to many of the health-based criteria and practical quantitation levels for specific ground water pollutants listed in the GWQS based on more recent scientific information on risk assessment and analytical capability. In addition, interim specific criteria developed and used by the Department since 1993 were codified as specific criteria in Appendix Table 1. Additional technical detail regarding the ground water quality criteria was provided by the Department in a Basis and Background document for the rule. A summary table is available that lists the previous ground water quality standards compared to the readopted standard.

2007 Proposal

On July 2, 2007, the Department proposed amendments to the GWQS rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.4 and 1.8, to replace the antidegradation policy and related definitions (see 39 NJR 2417(a)). The public comment period for this proposal closed on August 31, 2007. Proposed amendments included deleting the antidegradation limits established at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.8(b) through (e) and replacing them with new implementation procedures at proposed N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.8(b)1 through 5, which would establish the water quality conditions to be maintained that correspond with the different ground water classifications and their designated uses. These amendments also proposed prohibiting any new or expanded discharge to ground water in the Highlands Preservation Area that is not in conformance with the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:38. In addition, under these proposed amendments, the new antidegradation policy would apply equally to Class II and Class III ground water, in order to protect existing ground water quality from significant degradation. 

These amendments were proposed as a companion to the proposed Water Quality Management Planning (WQMP) rule (N.J.A.C. 7:15). By amending the WQMP rule in conjunction with the GWQS rule, the Department would extend its antidegradation policy beyond NJPDES-permitted facilities. For discharges to ground water from domestic treatment works, evaluation of compliance with the proposed antidegradation policy would be conducted at two scales. A regional evaluation would be conducted through the WQMP process, as currently proposed. Evaluation on a regional scale would allow for consideration of secondary and cumulative impacts on a watershed (i.e., HUC 11) basis, such as from a large-scale development. Placement of the proposed domestic treatment works would not be addressed in the regional evaluation. Therefore, once the regional evaluation had been completed, a site-specific evaluation would also be required, through the NJPDES discharge to ground water permitting process pursuant to existing N.J.A.C. 7:14A, to demonstrate that the permitted discharge would maintain existing ground water quality that is better than criteria.

These amendments also proposed using nitrate as a surrogate for the constituents in domestic wastewater, based on the Department's determination that 2 mg/L nitrate is representative of existing ground water quality Statewide, for the purpose of evaluating compliance with the proposed antidegradation policy at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.8(a) for new and expanded domestic treatment works that discharge to Class II and Class III ground water.

Updating Ground Water Quality Criteria

The Department may update specific ground water quality criteria listed in Appendix Table 1 through rulemaking. Rule proposals, along with any basis and background information, are published in the New Jersey Register and posted on the Department's Rules and Regulations Web page, unless the criteria can be established as Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria or revised through an Administrative Change, as explained below.

Establishing Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria

The GWQS rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7(c)2 state that the Department may establish interim specific ground water quality criteria for constituents not listed on Appendix Table 1 of the GWQS by posting them on the Department's Web site along with supplemental information used in their derivation. These interim specific ground water quality criteria are developed in accordance with the procedures listed at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7. The Department updates the list of Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria on its Web site as new information becomes available. If the Department determines that insufficient information is available to derive a health-based criterion for a constituent, the interim generic ground water quality criteria listed in Appendix Table 2 of the GWQS applies.

Administrative Change

The Department may also update the ground water quality criteria listed at Appendix Table 1 of the GWQS through an administrative change to the rules when the USEPA revises the carcinogenic slope factor or reference dose data contained in the USEPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database on which a specific ground water quality criterion in Appendix Table 1 is based, or when the Department adopts a new or revised Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) in the Safe Drinking Water Rules at N.J.A.C. 7:10. Ground water quality criteria revised as an administrative change are updated in Appendix Table 1 upon filing with the Office of Administrative Law. Notices of Administrative Change are posted on the Department's Rules and Regulations Web page for six months.

For more information about the GWQS Program, please contact the Bureau of Water Quality Standards and Assessment, at (609) 777-1753.

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Department of Environmental Protection
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