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Northwest New Jersey 15 Basin Aquifer Northwest New Jersey 15 Basin Aquifer

    Federal Register Notice 

Volume 53, No. 121, Page 23685 Thursday, June 23, 1988
  Sole Source Aquifer Determination  for Fifteen Basin Aquifer Systems of New Jersey et al.


AGENCY

Environmental Protection Agency

ACTION

Notice.

SUMMARY

In response to a petition from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), notice is hereby given that the Region II Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the 15 basin aquifer systems of northwest NJ, including the Delawanna Creek, Flat Brook, Lopatcong Creek, Millstone River, Musconetcong River, North Branch Raritan River, Papakating Creek, Paulins Kill, Pequest River, Pochuck Creek, Pohatcong Creek, South Branch Raritan River, Shimmers Brook, Van Campens Brook and Wallkill River Basin Aquifer Systems, underlying all of Warren County, NJ; and portions of Sussex, Passaic, Morris, Middlesex, Hunterdon, Mercer and Somerset Counties, NJ, and Orange County, NY, satisfy all determination criteria as a Sole Source Aquifer (SSA), pursuant to section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The basin aquifer systems of northwest NJ are the sole source of drinking water for their aquifer service area; there are no viable alternative drinking w ater sources of sufficient supply; and, if contamination were to occur, it would pose a significant hazard to the public health.

As a result of this action, all Federal financially-assisted projects proposed for the area will be subject to EPA review to ensure that these projects are designed and constructed such that they do not bring about, or in any way contribute to, conditions creating a significant hazard to public health.

DATES

This determination shall be promulgated for purposes of judicial review at 1:00 p.m. on July 7, 1988.

ADDRESS: The data on which these findings are based are available to the public and may be inspected during normal business hours at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region II, Office of Ground Water Management, Room 842, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York 10278.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John S. Malleck, Chief, Office of Ground Water Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region II, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, NY 10278, (212) 264-5635.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

I. Background

Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)(42 U.S.C., 300h-3(e), Pub. L. 93-523) states:

(e) If the Administrator determines, on his own initiative or upon petition, that an area has an aquifer which is the sole or principal drinking water source for the area and which, if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health, he shall publish a notice of the determination in the Federal Register. After the publication of any such notice, no commitment for Federal financial assistance (through a grant, contract, loan guarantee, or otherwise) may be entered into for any project which the Administrator determines may contaminate such aquifer through a recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health, but a commitment for Federal financial assistance may, if authorized under another provision of law, be entered into to plan or design the project to assure that it will not so contaminate the aquifer.

In November 1985, NJDEP petitioned EPA to declare the aquifer systems of the Coastal Plain, Piedmont, Hightland, and Valley and Ridge Physiographic Provinces, as defined in the petition, a SSA under provisions of the SDWA. The area specified in the petition submitted by NJDEP included the entire State of New Jersey except for the City of Trenton within the Coastal Plain and Piedmont Provinces in west-central New Jersey, and 69 communities within the Piedmont Province in northeast New Jersey.

In June 1987, NJDEP began to revise their petition to include only areas which were not designated previously, or petitioned for designation prior to their original petition. The revised petition uses a surface water drainage basin approach to define aquifer systems.

Initially 21 basin aquifer systems were to be included in the revised petition. However NJDEP determined that four of these were not eligible for SSA designation because of an insufficient ground water dependency. NJDEP developed the necessary documentation for the remaining 17. Subsequently, EPA determined that the NJDEP's ground water use methodology did not consider the entire aquifer service area populations. NJDEP revised the ground water use characterization to consider the entire aquifer service area, and another basin aquifer system was determined to be ineligible for SSA designation because of an insufficient ground water dependency. This reduced the number of basin aquifer systems under consideration to 16.

EPA determined that the Whippany River Basin, one of the 16, was already designated as part of the Buried Valley Sole Source Aquifer (45 FR 30537, May 8, 1980). Therefore, the area recommended for designation corresponds to the 15 basin aquifer systems of northwest New Jersey.

Public hearings were held on March 23, 1988 at the Sussex County Community College, Sparta, NJ, and on March 24, 1988 at the Hunterdon County Cooperative Extension Center, Flemington, NJ, in accordance with all applicable notification and procedural requirements. Most comments and information on the petition until March 25, 1986.

II. Basis for the Determination

Among the factors to be considered by the Regional Administrator as part of the technical review process for designating an area under section 1424(e) were: (1) Whether the aquifer is the sole or principal source (more than 50%) of drinking water for the defined aquifer service area, and that the volume of water available from all alternate sources is insufficient to replace the petitioned aquifer; and (2) whether contamination of the aquifer would create a significant hazard to public health. On the basis of technical information available to EPA at this time, the Regional Administrator has made the following findings in favor of designating the 15 basin aquifer systems of northwest NJ as a sole source aquifer:

1. The 15 basin aquifer systems supply more than 50 percent of the drinking water to their defined service area, and therefore, are the sole or principal source of drinking water for the residents of that area.

2. There are no reasonable alternative sources capable of supplying a sufficient quantity of drinking water to the population served by the petitioned aquifer systems.

3. The basin aquifer system of northwest New Jersey are considered to be highly vulnerable to contamination, due to the thickness of the soils over much of the area, the shallow depth to ground water, and the fractured nature of the bedrock. Potential sources of contamination include transportation routes, septic systems, highway, rural and urban runoff, commercial and industrial facilities, and agricultural practices. If the basin aquifer systems were to be contaminated, it create a significant hazard to public health.

III. Description of the 15 Basin Aquifer Systems, Designated Area and Project Review Area

The basin aquifer systems underlie all of Warren County, NJ; and portions of Sussex, Passaic, Morris, Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset and Middlesex Counties, NJ, and Orange County, NY. The aquifer systems are delineated by drainage basin divides, streams which serve as discharge points, and the northern boundary of the Coastal Plain Physiographic Province where it crosses the Millstone River Basin. The basin aquifer systems encompass approximately 1,735 square miles.

The Delawanna Creek Basin Aquifer System underlies a portion of Warren County. The area includes parts of the Townships of Blairstown, Knowlton, Hope, and White, and the Town of Belvidere.

The Flat Brook Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Sussex and Warren Counties. The area includes parts of the Townships of Wantage, Montague, Sandyston, Frankford, Stillwater, and Walpack.

The Lopatcong Basin Aquifer System underlies a portion of Warren County. The area includes parts of the Townships of Greenwich, Harmony, Lopatcong, Oxford, Pohatcong, and White, the Borough of Alpha, and the Towns of Belvidere and Phillipsburg.

The Millstone River Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Morris, Sussex, Warren, and Hunterdon Counties. The area includes all of Princeton Township and Hopewell, Princeton, Millstone, and Rocky Hill Boroughs; and parts of the Townships of Bridgewater, East Amwell, Franklin, Hillsborough, Hopewell, Lawrence, Montgomery, North Brunswick, Plainsboro, South Brunswick, West Amwell, and West Windsor, and the Boroughs of Manville and Pennington.

The Musconetcong River Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Morris, Sussex, Warren, and Hunterdon Counties. The area includes all of Bloomsbury, Stanhope, and Hopatcong Boroughs and the Town of Hackettstown; and parts of the Townships of Alexandria, Alembic, Bethlehem, Byram, Franklin, Green, Greenwich, Holland, Independence, Jefferson, Lebanon, Mansfield, Mount Olive, Pohatcong, Roxbury, Sparta, and Washington, the Boroughs of Glen Gardner, Hampton, Mount Arlington, Netcong, and Washington.

The North Branch Raritan River Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset Counties. The area includes all of Bedminster Township and Chester, Lebanon and Peapack-Gladstone Boroughs; and parts of the Townships of Bernards, Branchburg, Bridgewater, Chester, Clinton, Hillsborough, Lebanon, Mendham, Mine Hill Randolph, Readington, Roxbury, Tewksbury, and Washington, the Boroughs of Bernardsville, Califon, Far Hills, Mendham, Mount Arlington, Raritan, and Somerville, and the Town of Clinton.

The Papakating Creek Basin Aquifer System underlies a portion of Sussex County. The area includes parts of the Township of Frankford, Lafayette, Montague, Sandyston, and Wantage, and the Borough of Sussex.

The Paulins Kill Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Warren and Sussex Counties. The area includes all of Hampton Township and Branchville Borough; and parts of the Townships of Andover, Blairstown, Frankford, Fredon, Frelinghuysen, Hardwick, Hardyston, Knowlton, Lafayette, Pahaquarry, Sandyston, Sparta, Stillwater, and Walpack, and the Town of Newton.

The Pequest River Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Warren and Sussex Counties. The area includes all of Liberty Township and Andover Borough; and parts of the Townships of Alembic, Andover, Blairstown, Byram, Fredon, Frelinghuysen, Green, Hope, Independence, Knowlton, Mansfield, Oxford, Sparta, Washington, and White, and Towns of Belvidere and Newton.

The Pochuck Creek Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Sussex and Passaic Counties, NJ, and Orange County, NY. The area includes all of the Village of Warwick, NY; and parts of the Townships of Hardyston, Vernon, and West Milford, NJ and the Townships of Warwick and Chester, NY.

The Pohatcong Creek Basin Aquifer System underlies a portion of Warren County. The area includes all of Washington Borough; and parts of the Townships of Franklin, Greenwich, Harmony, Independence, Lopatcong, Mansfield, Oxford, Pahatcong, Washington, and White, and the Borough of Alpha.

The South Branch Raritan River Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset Counties. The area includes all of Flemington and High Bridge Boroughs; and parts of the Township of Alexandria, Bethlehem, Branchburg, Chester, Clinton, Delaware, East Amwell, Franklin, Hillsborough, Lebanon, Mount Olive, Raritan, Readington, Roxbury, Tewksbury, Union, Washington, and West Amwell, the Town of Clinton, and the Boroughs of Califon, Glen Gardner, Hampton, and Mount Arlington.

The Shimmers Brook Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Sussex County, NJ and Orange County, NY. The area includes parts of the Townships of Montague, Sandyston, Walpack, and Wantage, NJ, and the Township of Greenville and the City of Port Jervis, NY.

The Van Campens Brook Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Warren and Sussex Counties. The area includes parts of the Township of Blairstown, Hardwick, Knowlton, Pahaquarry and Walpack.

The Wallkill River Basin Aquifer System underlies portions of Sussex County, NJ and Orange County, NY. The area includes all of the Village of Unionville, NY; and parts of the Townships of Andover, Byram, Hardyston, Jefferson, Lafayette, Montague, Sparta, Vernon, and Wantague, and the Boroughs of Franklin, Hamburg, Ogdensburg, and Sussex, NJ, and the Townships of Greenville, Minisink, Warwick, Wawayanda, Mount Hope, and Wallkill, NY.

The aquifer service areas for the Lopatcong Creek, Millstone River, Musconetcong River, North Branch Raritan River, Papakating Creek, Pequest River, Pohatcong Creek, South Branch Raritan River, Shimmers Brook, and the Wallkill River Basin Aquifer Systems extend beyond their aquifer system boundaries. Ground water from these basin aquifer systems is used by purveyors to supply people outside the aquifer system boundary. The population of all 15 aquifer service areas combined is approximately 600,000 people.

The recharge area for the 15 basin aquifer systems is the entire designated area. The streamflow source zone is defined as the upstream area of losing streams which flow into the recharge area. Except for the Millstone River, no streams flow into the recharge areas. In addition, all measurements indicate streams in the designated area are gaining streams. Therefore, there are no streamflow source zones for any of the 15 basin aquifer systems.

Only contaminants introduced in the recharge areas have the potential to affect the basin aquifer systems. Therefore, the project review area is defined to include the entire designated area for the 15 basin aquifer systems.

Maps delineating the designated area and lists of the municipalities within each basin aquifer system are available, and may be obtained by contacting the person listed previously.

IV. Information Utilized in Determination

The information utilized in this determination included petition and background documentation submitted by the NJDEP, various U.S. Geological Survey and New Jersey State reportssubmitted with the petition, in-formation contained in EPA files, and written and verbal comments from the public. These materials are available to the public and may be inspected during normal business hours at the address listed previously.

V. Project Review

Publication of this determination requires that EPA review proposed projects with Federal financial assistance in order to ensure that such projects do not have the potential to contaminate the 15 basin aquifer systems through their recharge zones so as to create a significant hazard to public health. In many cases, these projects may also be analyzed in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C). All EIS's, as well as any other proposed Federal actions affecting an EPA program, are required by Federal law (under the so-called "NEPA/309" process) to be reviewed and commented upon by the EPA Administrator.

In order to streamline EPA's review of the possible environmental impacts on a designated sole source aquifer, when an action is analyzed in an EIS, the two reviews will be consolidated and both authorities cited. The EPA review under the Section 1424(e) will therefore be included in the EPA review of the EIS (under NEPA).

VI. Summary and Discussion of Public Comments

Most public comments received expressed strong support for the designat-ion of the 16 basin aquifer system for which NJDEP developed the necessary documentation. Of the eleven persons or groups who submitted comments on the petition, only the New York State Department of Environ-mental Conservation (NYSDEC) opposed designation. NYSDEC's comments were specific to the portions of the basin aquifer systems which extend into NY. The reasons given for opposition are that (1) the basin aquifer systems which extend into NY are not listed as Primary Water Supply Aquifers by the State, and that designating such areas as a SSA distorts the State priority system; and (2) ground water flow in the Wallkill River Basin Aquifer System is north, from NJ into NY, and that any activities within the Wallkill River Basin in NY will have no impact on ground water quality in NJ.

In response to the above, (1) the Federal SSA program, as administered by EPA, is based on criteria independent of any State ground water program; and (2) it is Agency policy to, whenever possible, designate SSAs based on hydrogeologic rather than political boundaries because contamination of any portion of an aquifer can affect the down-gradient portions of that aquifer. All information reviewed indicates that the ground water divide in this area will cor-respond with the drainage basin divide. For this reason, the first prominent divide in the NY portion of the Wallkill River Drainage Basin was used to define the northern boundary of the Wallkill River Basin Aquifer System.

One person expressed concern that the Whippany River Basin Aquifer System portion of the petition area overlaps the previously designated Buried Valley Sole Source Aquifer. Review of designation documentation by Agency personnel confirmed that an overlap exists between thetwo areas. Therefore, the area recommended for designation does not include Whippany River Basin Aquifer System.

Another person expressed concern that SSA designation may impede local solid waste management efforts. However, SSA designation provides for review of ground water protection measures for only those projects which request Federal financial assistance. Since solid waste manage-ment at the local level is not federally funded, such efforts will not be subject to review under the SSA program.

Another commentor requested that EPA expand the proposed designated area for the Wallkill River Basin Aquifer System in Orange County, New York. Insufficient information was submitted with their request to justify an expansion. Therefore, rather than delay designation of an area with sufficient documentation, EPA will proceed with designation of the area as petitioned.

VII. Summary

Today's action affects the 15 basin aquifer systems of northwest NJ, located in Warren, Sussex, Passaic, Morris, Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset and Middlesex Counties, NJ, and Orange County, NY. Projects with Federal financial assistance proposed for all of Warren County, NJ; and portions of Sussex, Passaic, Morris, Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset and Middlesex Counties, NJ, and Orange County, NY will be reviewed to ensure that necessary ground water protection measures are incorporated into them.

Dated: June 10, 1988.

Christopher J. Daggett, Regional Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency, Region II.

[FR Doc. 8814155 Filed 6/22/88; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 656050M

 

 

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