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Notice of Rule Proposal: Surface Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:9B (Tuesday, July 5, 2022)

A statement of the substance of the proposal follows: revisions are being proposed to the bacterial quality criteria for fresh and saline surface waters designated for primary contact recreation at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(d)1, based on USEPA’s 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria recommendations. The proposed primary contact recreational criteria include magnitude, duration and frequency of excursion and consists of both geometric mean (GM) and a new measure, statistical threshold value (STV). USEPA recommended two sets of the criteria (magnitude, duration and frequency) for the bacterial indicators corresponding to estimated illness rates of 32 and 36 per 1000 individuals. USEPA maintains that both sets of recommendations are protective of the designated use, primary contact recreation. The Department is proposing primary contact recreational criteria consistent with the USEPA’s more conservative recommendation (32 illness/1000 individuals). The STV approximates the 90th percentile of the water quality distribution and is intended to be a value that should not be exceeded by more than 10 percent of the samples used to calculate the geometric mean. The duration for sample collection and analysis will be revised to 90 days, over which the geometric mean and STV will be calculated. Additionally, the Department is proposing to delete the current measure, single sample maximum, at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(d)1, and the minimum number of samples requirement for primary contact recreational waters at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.5(c)7.

The Department is proposing to revise the existing ammonia criteria for aquatic life for fresh waters classified as FW2-TP, FW2-TM, and FW2-NT at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(e) based on the USEPA’s 2013 Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality recommendations. The proposed freshwater ammonia criteria are expressed as formulas which are dependent on temperature and pH values ranging from 6.5 to 9.5; therefore, the revised criteria formulas are not applicable to Pinelands (PL) waters. The current pH criteria for PL waters range between 3.5 and 5.5. The acute and chronic criteria also include an appropriate duration and frequency.

The Department is proposing to establish new provisions at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.16 for the development, adoption, and implementation of water quality standards (WQS) variances, in accordance with the federal variance provisions at 40 CFR 131.14, which were published by USEPA in 2015.

The Department is proposing changes to the total phosphorus criteria at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(d)4 to be consistent with the Department’s nutrient policies at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.5(g)2.

Additionally, the Department is proposing minor changes including changes to definitions at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.4, update to a subwatershed numbered 02030103010100 at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(g)3i (from “Dead River above Harrisons Brook” to “Dead River below Harrisons Brook”), update the definition of DRBC Water Quality Regulations to remove the date, deletion of three definitions at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.4 (aquatic substrata, NPDES, and zone).

The proposal is scheduled to be published in the New Jersey Register dated July 5, 2022. A copy of the proposal is available from as well as on LexisNexis, which provides free public access to the New Jersey Register at information is available on the Department's website at For more information about the proposed amendments or the SWQS, please contact Kimberly Cenno, Bureau Chief, at the Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards at (609) 633-1441.

A public hearing concerning the proposal will be conducted virtually through the Department’s video conferencing software, Microsoft Teams and is scheduled as follows:

August 3, 2022 at 10:00 A.M.
Microsoft Teams

A link to the virtual public hearing will be provided on the Surface Water Quality Standards website.

If intending to provide oral testimony or to submit written comments at the virtual public hearing, please email the Department at no later than 5:00 P.M. on August 1, 2022, with contact information (name, organization, telephone number, and email address). A valid email address must be provided so the Department can send an email confirming receipt of interest to testify orally at the hearing and provide a separate option for a telephone call-in line if there is no access to a computer that can connect to Microsoft Teams.

Written comments may be submitted electronically by September 3, 2022 at; or
In hard copy to:

Melissa P. Abatemarco, Esq.
ATTN: DEP Docket No. 5-22-5
NJ Department of Environmental Protection
Office of Legal Affairs
Mail Code 401-04L; PO Box 402
401 East State Street, 7th Floor
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402