Jump to main content.

New Jersey Coastal Plain Aquifer New Jersey Coastal Plain Aquifer

AGENCY

Environmental Protection Agency

ACTION

Notice.

SUMMARY

Notice is hereby given that, pursuant to section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the New Jersey Coastal Plain Aquifer System, underlying the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area, is the sole or principal source of drinking water for the Counties of Monmouth, Burlington, Ocean, Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic, Salem, Cumberland, Cap May and portions of Mercer and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey, and that the aquifer, if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health.

As a result of this action EPA will review Federally assisted projects (projects which receive Federal financial assistance through a grant, contract, loan guarantee, or otherwise) proposed for constructed in a project review area which includes the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area and a portion of the aquifer streamflow source zone.

The streamflow source zone includes upstream portions of the Delaware River Basin in the States of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Federally assisted projects will be reviewed to ensure that they are designed and constructed so that they do not create a significant hazard to public health. Projects outside of the project review area but within the streamflow source zone will be reviewed if they require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

DATES

This determination shall be promulgated for purposes of judicial review at 1:00 P.M., Eastern Time on July 7, 1988. This determination shall become effective on August 8, 1988.

ADDRESS: The data on which these findings are based, detailed maps of the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area and the project review area, a compilation of public comments and the Agency's response to those comments, are available to the public and may be inspected during normal business hours at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Water Management Division, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York 10278. In addition, copies of a map showing the designated area and a responsiveness summary to public comment are available upon request.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

Notice is hereby given that pursuant to section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C., 300f, 300h-3(e), Pub. L. 93-523), the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the New Jersey Coastal Plain Aquifer System, underlying the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area, is the sole or principal source of drinking water for the Counties of Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Monmouth, Ocean, Salem, and portions of Mercer and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey.

Pursuant to section 1424(e), Federally assisted projects proposed for construction in the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area and the project review area within portions of its streamflow source zone will be subject to EPA review.

The streamflow source zone for the New Jersey Coastal Plain Aquifer System includes upstream portions of the Delaware River Basin in the States of Delaware (New Castle County), New Jersey (Mercer-part, Hunterdon-part, Sussex-part, and Warren Counties), New York (Delaware, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties), and Pennsylvania (Berks-part, Bucks, Carbon-part, Chester-part, Delaware, Lackawanna-part, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne-part, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuykill and Wayne Counties).

The project review area includes that portion of the streamflow source zone which lies within two miles of the Delaware River in the States of New Jersey (in Mercer, Hunterdon, Sussex and Warren Counties), Delaware (in New Castle County), Pennsylvania (in Delaware, Philadelphia, Bucks, Monroe, Northampton, Pike and Wayne Counties) and New York (in Delaware, Orange and Sullivan Counties).

I. Background

Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act 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 as-sistance 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.

On December 4, 1978 the Environmental Defense Fund, Inc., and Sierra Club New Jersey Chapter petitioned the EPA Administrator to determine that the Counties of Monmouth, Burlington, Ocean, Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic, Salem, Cumberland, Cap May and portions of Mercer and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey, constitute an area whose aquifer system is "the sole or principal drinking water source for the area and which, if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health." On March 21, 1979, EPA published the petition in the Federal Register. Public hearings on the petition request were heal May 1, 15 and 17, 1979 in Lindenwold, Trenton, Freehold and Pomona, New Jersey. A May 19, 1983 Federal Register notice announced the availability of additional technical information and the extension of public comment period to July 15, 1983.

II. Basis for the Determination

Among the factors to be considered by the Administrator in con-nection with the de-signating an area under section 1424(e) are:

(1) Whether the aquifer is the area's sole or principal source of drinking water and (2) whether contamination of the aquifer would create a significant hazard to public health.

On the basis of information available to this Agency, the Administrator has made the following findings, which are the basis for the determination noted above:

(1.) The New Jersey Coastal Plain Area depends upon the under-lying Coastal Plain Aquifer System for seventy-five (75) percent or more of its drinking water to serve 3 million people.

(2.) Data show that the formations of the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area are hydrologically inter-connected such that they respond collectively as an interrelated aquifer system.

(3.) If the aquifer were to become contaminated, exposure of the persons served by the system would constitute a significant hazard to public health.

(4.) Alternative supplies capable of providing fifty (50) percent or more of the drinking water to the designated area are not available at similar economic costs.

The New Jersey Coastal Plain Aquifer System is highly susceptible to contamination through its recharge zone from a number of sources, including but not limited to, chemical spills, leachate from landfills, stormwater runoff, highway deicing, faulty septic systems, wastewater treatment systems and waste disposal lagoons. The aquifer is also susceptible to contamination to a lesser degree fro the same sources through its streamflow source zone. Since ground water contamination can be difficult or impossible to reverse completely and since the aquifer in this area is solely or principally relied upon for drinking water purposes by the population of the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area, contamination of the aquifer could pose a significant hazard to public health.

III. Description of the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area Aquifer Systems, its Recharge Zone and its Streamflow Source Zone

The New Jersey Coastal Plain Aquifer System consists of a wedge-shaped mass of unconsolidated sediments composed of clay, silt, sand and gravel. The wedge thins to a feathered edge along the Fall Line and attains a thickness of 6,000 feet at the tip of Cape May County, New Jersey.

These sediments range in age from Cretaceous to Holocene and can be classified as continental, coastal or marine deposits. There are five major aquifers within the Coastal Plain Aquifer System. They are the Potomac-Raritan-Magothy Aquifer System, Englishtown Aquifer, Wenonah-Mount Laurel Aquifer, Kirkwood Aquifer and the Cohansey Aquifer. Natural recharge to the New Jersey Coastal Plain Aquifer System occurs primarily through direct precipitation on the outcrop area of the geologic formations. A smaller component of natural recharge to the deeper layers of the system occurs by vertical leakage from the upper layers. This accounts for a small percentage of the total amount of recharge; however, over a large area and a long period of time the amount of water transmitted can be significant.

The New Jersey Coastal Plain Aquifer discharges to the surface through streams, springs and evapotranspiration. Many streams ultimately flow into bays or directly into the ocean. Development of the ground water reservoir as a water supply source constitutes another discharge component which today accounts for a significant portion of discharge from the overall system. In certain areas (e.g., along the Delaware River) heavy pumping has caused a reversal in the normal discharge from the aquifer (Raritan-Magothy) such that the surface stream (Delaware River) now recharges the aquifer. This phenomenon implies that, in addition to the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area, the Delaware River Basin within Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York must be regarded as a streamflow source zone (an upstream headwaters area which drains into a recharge zone), which flows into the Coastal Plain Area.

IV. Information Utilized in Determination

The information utilized in this determination includes the petition, written and verbal comments submitted by the public, and various technical publications. The above data are available to the public and may be inspected during normal business hours at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region II, Water Management Division, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York 10278.

V. Project Review

When the EPA Administrator publishes his determination for a sole or principal drinking water source, no commitment for Federal financial assistance may be committed if the Administrator finds that the Federally assisted project may contaminate the aquifer through a recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health...Safe Drinking Water Act section 1424(e), 42 U.S.C. 300h-3(e). In many cases, these Federally assisted projects would also be analyzed in an "Environmental Impact Statement" (EIS) under the National Environ-mental 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 or responsibility, are required by Federal law (under the so-called "NEPA/309" process) to be reviewed and commented upon by the EPA Administrator. Therefore, in order to streamline EPA's review of the possible environmental impacts on designated aquifers, when an action is analyzed in an EIS, the two reviews will be consolidated and both authorities cited. The EPA review (under the Safe Drinking Water Act) of Federally assisted projects potentially affecting sole or principal source aquifers, will be included in the EPA review (under the "NEPA/309" process) of any EIS accompanying the same Federally assisted project. The letter transmitting EPA's comments on the final EIS to the lead agency will be the vehicle for informing the lead agency of EPA's actions under Section 1424(e).

All Federally assisted proposed projects will be reviewed, within the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area (Counties of Monmouth, Burlington, Ocean, Cumberland and Cape May, and portions of Mercer and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey (as delineated on maps included in the petition), and that portion of the streamflow source zone which lies within two miles of the Delaware River in the States of New Jersey (in Mercer, Hunterdon, Sussex and Warren Counties), Delaware (in New Castle County), Pennsylvania (in Delaware, Philadelphia, Bucks, Monroe, Northampton, Pike and Wayne Counties) and New York (in Delaware, Orange and Sullivan Counties) (asdelineated on maps included in the public record).

Outside the New Jersey Coastal Plain Area and further than two miles from the Delaware River in the streamflow source zone, only those Federally assisted proposed projects requiring the preparation of an EIS will be reviewed. The Agency has chosen a two-mile limit for the project review area along the Delaware River based on the climate and hydrologic setting of the area. The two-mile distance is consistent with the two-mile review radius included in the EPA guidelines for Ground Water Classification and is protective of human health.

VI. Summary and Discussion of Public Comments

There has been much controversy over the possible designation of this aquifer system. The majority of the public comments from the original 1979 public hearings were in direct opposition to such a designation. More than half of all responses received were against designation. Several commenters felt constrained by the original comment period and thereby requested an extension. EPA complied with this request on two occasions, once by announcing at the four public hearings it held throughout the area under consideration that the agency had extended the formal comment period from May 14, 1979, to December 31, 1979, and again in a May 19, 1983 Federal Register Notice that announced the availability of additional information and extension of the public comment period to July 15, 1983. Although a number of ground water protection measures are available at the Federal, State and local level, none of these, either individually or collectively, permit EPA to act as directly as would a sole source aquifer designation in the review and approval of Federally assisted projects. In addition, EPA feels that the sole source project review process will foster integration rather than duplication of environmental review efforts. Memoranda of Understanding have been negotiated with various Federal agencies with the purpose of streamlining the review process and minimizing project delays. Most of the commenters expressed concern that a designation would be a duplication of efforts already existing on the state and local levels. Some commenters felt that a sole source aquifer designation would give EPA the power to reject any applications for Federally funded projects indiscriminately and to delay any project underway. Another main concern of many commenters was that a designation would cause a strong negative impact on the area in question and curtail needed development, thus eliminating jobs. EPA is sympathetic to the concerns of the commenters; however, the Agency feels that a sole source aquifer designation would not interfere with economic development. Federal financial assistance will be withheld only in those instances where it is determined that a proposed project may contaminate the aquifer so as to create a significant hazard to public health and no acceptable remedial measures are available to prevent the potential hazard.

Dated: June 16, 1988.
Lee M. Thomas, Administrator

[FR Doc. 8814293 Filed 6/23/88; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 656050M

LocalNavigation


Jump to main content.