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DRBC Releases Water Quality Assessment Report for the Lower Delaware River
Shows DRBC’s SPW Program is Keeping the Clean Water Clean

For Immediate Release

August 8, 2016

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) -- The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) this week released its Lower Delaware River Special Protection Waters (SPW) Assessment of Measurable Changes to Existing Water Quality report.

The report compares baseline water quality data initially collected from 2000-2004 to the assessment period of 2009-2011. Extensive monitoring was conducted and water quality data were evaluated at 24 sites located on the Delaware River and tributaries in a 76-mile stretch of the river between Portland, Pa./Columbia, N.J. and Trenton, N.J.

“This assessment examines whether changes to existing water quality in this section of the river have occurred, and we are pleased to announce that, for most water quality parameters at most locations, there were no measurable changes to existing water quality,” said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini. “In fact, many tests revealed water quality improvements.”

DRBC noted that nutrients were one of the water quality parameters found to show improvement at most sites; this is good news, as these results appear to buck the national trend of nutrient degradation of waterbodies.

“The commission’s Special Protection Waters, or SPW, program is designed to prevent degradation where existing water quality is better than the established water quality standards through management and control of wastewater discharges along with reporting requirements,” said Tambini. “This assessment demonstrates that DRBC’s SPW program is working and plays an important and positive role in protecting water quality in the Delaware River Basin.”

DRBC’s Special Protection Waters program covers the entire 197-mile non-tidal Delaware River from Hancock, N.Y. to Trenton, N.J. The SPW program aims to keep clean waters clean. In practice, the goal is to achieve no measurable change in existing water quality of SPW waters, except towards natural conditions. This is accomplished by taking a watershed approach, looking at the drainage area of the designated waters and considering impacts of various potential pollutant loadings, such as discharges from wastewater treatment plants. Monitoring is required to determine if measurable change is occurring at designated sites where existing water quality has been defined. The DRBC’s SPW regulations establish an anti-degradation policy on one of the longest stretches of any river in the nation.

Chloride was one of the few parameters where a measurable change did occur at several locations, but the monitored results remained well below levels that would impact the aquatic environment. This upward trend, which is not unique to the Delaware River, is likely caused by winter road salting in the watershed.

The complete assessment reportinteractive map, and additional SPW information are available on the commission’s web site at www.drbc.net.

The DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency responsible for managing the water resources within the 13,539 square-mile Delaware River Basin without regard to political boundaries. The five commission members are the governors of the basin states (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division, who represents the federal government.

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Contact: Clarke Rupert, Clarke.Rupert@drbc.nj.gov, (609) 883-9500 x260

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