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Toxic Pollutants

Toxic pollutants are those elements and chemical compounds that have adverse effects on aquatic life and human health as a result of both short-term and long-term exposure. These pollutants include metals such as copper, lead, and mercury, as well as a number of chlorinated organic compounds. 

Toxic pollutants are regulated under the federal Clean Water Act under Section 307(a)(1) and in similar state statutes. The list of toxic pollutants established under Section 307(a)(1) contained 65 chemical compounds or groups of compounds. The U.S. EPA subsequently identified 129 compounds for which the agency developed analytical methods and water quality criteria in the late 1970's and early 1980's. This list was subsequently reduced to 126 compounds which are referred to as "priority pollutants." This set of pollutants is the focus of regulation under the Clean Water Act.

DRBC and the basin states adopted water quality criteria for these pollutants in response to amendments to the Clean Water Act in 1987. The commission's criteria are also called "stream quality objectives," a term that predates the Clean Water Act, and were adopted in 1996. Tables 3 through 7 of the Commission's Water Quality Regulations list the numerical criteria for the protection of aquatic life and human health. The commission conducts monitoring programs to assess the levels of these pollutants in the ambient waters, sediment, and tissues of aquatic life for the purpose of identifying those toxic pollutants that may be impacting aquatic life and human health through the ingestion of water and fish caught in the Delaware River.

Toxics Resolutions & Assoc. Documents

Resolution 2010-13: Updates DRBC's Water Quality Criteria for Toxic Pollutants for the Delaware Estuary and Bay (pdf 75 KB; Dec. 2010)

Resolution 2000-13: Resolution to Control Estuary Toxics (Jul. 2000)

Resolution 2000-4: Relating to the Control of Toxic Pollutants from Point Sources Discharging to the Delaware River Estuary (Jan. 2000)