The Delaware River Basin Commission Thursday announced plans to take several actions to recognize improved water quality in the Delaware River Estuary and to formally review the designated aquatic life uses and water quality criteria necessary to support these uses in the estuary.
The plans are described in a proposed resolution which will be the subject of a special public hearing on March 15 where interested parties will have the opportunity to provide oral comments.
The hearing, beginning at 2 p.m., will be held at the Washington Crossing Historic Park Visitor Center, 1112 River Road, Washington Crossing, Pa. Written comments on the proposed resolution will be accepted until 5 p.m. on April 13.
“The draft resolution recognizes that evidence supports further study on the inclusion of propagation of resident and migratory fish as a ‘designated use’ in a 38-mile section of the tidal Delaware River stretching from Wilmington, Del. to just above the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge connecting Philadelphia and New Jersey,” said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini. “The resolution would provide for additional studies to be undertaken in consultation with state and federal co-regulators as well as municipal and industrial dischargers.”
“In addition, the resolution affirms the goal of continued water quality improvement shared by the DRBC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the estuary states of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” added Tambini.
When the DRBC was created in 1961, little or no dissolved oxygen (DO) was present in the Delaware River from Wilmington to Philadelphia for periods of up to six months each year, preventing the survival of resident fish and movement of migratory fish through these waters to spawning areas.
Significant improvements in DO levels have occurred throughout this stretch of the tidal Delaware River since DRBC originally adopted designated uses and implemented related water quality criteria in 1967.
This shared achievement has been the result of effective water management by DRBC, the federal government, and the four basin states, as well as substantial investment in treatment works by public entities and private industry.
“The proposed resolution, among other measures, calls for the DRBC to conduct an analysis to determine the attainability of DO criteria that would be required to support an upgrade in the designated use in this 38-mile stretch of the tidal Delaware River,” said Tambini. “This would be done in close collaboration with the four basin states, EPA, and the regulated community.”
In order to fulfill their obligation under the federal Clean Water Act to designate and protect uses for surface waters including the shared waters of the Delaware River Estuary, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania either apply DRBC water quality standards that they have jointly established or provide for application of the more stringent of state and DRBC standards within the basin.
Once the comment period is closed, commission action on the proposed resolution can only occur at a future DRBC business meeting that is open to the public and for which the public has received the required advance notice.The proposed resolution, additional information about the March 15 public hearing, and details describing how written comments can be submitted can be found on the Commission’s website.