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Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Public Hearing: August 17, 2009

Proposed Amendments to the Water Quality Regulations, Water Code, and Comprehensive Plan to Revise the Human Health Water Quality Criteria for PCBs in the Delaware Estuary, to Apply the PCB Human Health Water Quality Criterion to Delaware Bay, and to Provide for the Use of Compliance Schedules to Implement Stream Quality Objectives Established by the Commission

Please note that the comment period closed on October 19, 2009. 

Summary

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC or "Commission") held a public hearing to receive comments on proposed amendments to the Commission's Water Quality Regulations, Water Code, and Comprehensive Plan to revise the human health water quality criteria for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the Delaware Estuary (DRBC Water Quality Management Zones 2 through 5), extend application of the DRBC's PCB human health water quality criterion to Delaware Bay (DRBC Water Quality Zone 6), and provide for the use of compliance schedules where implementation of a stream quality objective established by the Commission requires a reduction of the pollutant concentration or loading of a discharge to Basin waters.

Informational Meetings, Public Hearing, and Instructions for Submitting Written Comments

Two informational meetings were held on the proposed revised human health water quality criterion for PCBs and accompanying implementation plan:

View Presentation Given at October 1 and October 6, 2009 Informational Meetings (pdf 800 KB)

The public hearing was held at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 8, 2009 at the Commission's office building located at 25 State Police Drive, West Trenton, N.J. As Internet mapping tools are inaccurate for this location, use of the driving directions posted on the Commission's web site was requested. The hearing continued until all those who wished to testify had an opportunity to do so. Persons wishing to testify at the hearing were asked to register in advance by phoning Ms. Paula Schmitt at 609-883-9500, ext. 224.

Written comments were submitted as follows:  If by email, to paula.schmitt@drbc.state.nj.us; if by fax, to Commission Secretary at 609-883-9522; if by U.S. Mail, to Commission Secretary, DRBC, P.O. Box 7360, West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360; or if by overnight mail, to Commission Secretary, DRBC, 25 State Police Drive, West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360. In all cases, please include the commenter's name, address, and affiliation, if any, in the comment document and "PCB Rulemaking" in the subject line. Written comments were accepted if received by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 19, 2009. The comment period is now closed.  

Supplementary Information

Background.    The current DRBC water quality criteria for PCBs in the Delaware Estuary were established in 1996. They pre-date the collection of site-specific bioaccumulation data for the Delaware Estuary and Bay and site-specific fish-consumption data for Zones 2 through 4 that are relevant to the development of human health water quality criteria. They are also inconsistent with current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance for the development of such criteria, and they vary by water quality zone. One consequence of the current varied criteria is that in order to ensure that the current water quality criterion of 7.9 picograms per liter in the downstream portion of Zone 5 can be achieved, the allowable PCB loading to Zones 2 and 3, where the applicable criterion currently is 44.4 picograms per liter, must be even lower than would be required if the proposed uniform criterion were in place. DRBC currently has no PCB water quality criteria for the Delaware Bay, a shared interstate water for which the states of New Jersey and Delaware have established a criterion of 64 picograms per liter. 

By Resolution No. 2003-11 on March 19, 2003 the Commission directed its executive director to initiate rulemaking on a proposal to revise the Commission’s human health water quality criteria, including those for PCBs, to reflect site-specific data on fish consumption, site-specific bioaccumulation factors, and current EPA guidance on development of human health criteria. Rulemaking was delayed, however, pending the completion of an effort by the Commission's Toxics Advisory Committee (TAC) to revise the criterion for PCBs and a separate effort to develop recommendations for achieving reductions in PCB loadings to the river that could be issued in conjunction with the criterion. 

Rigorously applying the most current available data and methodology, including site-specific data on fish consumption, site-specific bioaccumulation factors, and the current EPA methodology for the development of human health criteria for toxic pollutants (see EPA-822-B-00-004, October 2000), the TAC in July 2005 completed development of a revised human health water quality criterion for PCBs for the Delaware Estuary and Bay of 16 picograms per liter. Accordingly, by Resolution No. 2005-19 on December 7, 2005, the Commission directed the executive director to proceed with rulemaking to establish the new criterion in DRBC Water Quality Zones 2 through 6

When the Commission directed the executive director in 2005 to initiate rulemaking on updated PCB criteria, in accordance with a recommendation of the TAC, it also asked her to work with state regulatory agencies and EPA (collectively, "co-regulators") to develop recommendations for implementing criteria for bioaccumulative toxic pollutants such as PCBs that would be "consistent with the existing Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) framework while . . . reflecting principles of adaptive management" and to solicit public comment on these recommendations (DRBC Resolution No. 2005-19 par's. 3-4). It is expected that Stage 2 TMDLs issued by EPA will include as an appendix a TMDL implementation plan developed by DRBC and its co-regulators. The implementation plan, which will take the form of a guidance document, will explain how the load allocations assigned by the TMDL to nonpoint sources and the wasteload allocations assigned to point sources can be achieved consistent with the Clean Water Act and principles of adaptive management.

According to the 2003 and 2006 TMDLs, actual loadings of PCBs to the Delaware Estuary and Bay respectively are in some cases orders of magnitude above those needed to allow attainment of the designated use. The EPA's 2003 Delaware Estuary TMDL report projects that "due to the scope and complexity of the problem that has been defined through these TMDLs, achieving the estuary water quality standards for PCBs will take decades." (EPA 2003, Executive Summary, p. xiii). As required by Section 4.30.9 of the DRBC Water Quality Regulations, adopted by DRBC Resolution No. 2005-9 on May 18, 2005, the largest point source dischargers of PCBs to the Delaware Estuary and Bay have already undertaken pollutant minimization plans designed to locate the sources of PCBs entering their wastewater and stormwater systems and contain or remove them. The TMDL implementation plan developed by the co-regulators recognizes that many point source dischargers already have reduced their PCB loadings in an effort to meet their TMDL wasteload allocations assigned by the Stage 1 TMDLs. Some point source dischargers are expected to achieve their required reductions soon; however, others will require an extended period of time, including in some instances decades, to achieve the PCB loading reductions needed to meet their assigned wasteload allocations. The implementation plan developed by the co-regulators will accommodate these dischargers through the use of compliance schedules consistent with the Clean Water Act and applicable regulations. It is understood that those dischargers who cannot achieve their wasteload allocations within a single five-year permit cycle notwithstanding good faith efforts to do so as soon as possible will be given additional time, even if this requires compliance schedules extending well beyond a single five-year permit cycle.

Subjects on Which Comment is Expressly Solicited.  Public comment is solicited on all aspects of the proposed rule. Without limiting the foregoing, the Commission has identified certain subject matters on which it expressly seeks comment. First, comments are solicited on the assumptions applied in developing the criterion, including the appropriate cancer risk level. (See Resolution No. 2005-19, par. 2). In accordance with current DRBC regulations, that level is 10-6, or one additional cancer in every one million humans exposed for 70 years. (See DRBC Water Quality Regulations, §3.10.3 D.4). The assumptions applied in developing the revised PCB criterion of 16 picograms per liter are set forth in a basis and background document that is available on the DRBC web site. The second area on which the Commission expressly seeks comment is best approaches for implementing water quality criteria for bioaccumulative pollutants consistent with the NPDES framework and principles of adaptive management. (See Resolution No. 2005-19, par. 4). The third is the implementation plan developed by the co-regulators, which is posted on the Commission's web site.

Further Information, Contacts

The text of the proposed rule, the basis and background document, and the co-regulators' implementation plan for the proposed criterion was made available on the DRBC web site by August 17, 2009. For further information, please contact Commission Secretary Pamela M. Bush, 609-883-9500 ext. 203. 

PAMELA M. BUSH, ESQ.
Commission Secretary