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Long Island-New Jersey (LINJ) Coastal Drainages Study

05/13/94-Meeting Summary

                    Water Resources Division, NJ District
                      810 Bear Tavern Road, Suite 206
                      West Trenton, New Jersey  08628
                                                        June 14, 1994
Dear Committee Member,

Subject: Summary of the May 13 NAWQA study liaison meeting

      On May 13, the LINJ NAWQA study had its first liaison committee
meeting in Edison, NJ.  Some 26 representratives of various water agencies
and environmental groups met to discuss the issues and give insight into
what NAWQA might do to help improve understanding of water-quality problems
in the study area.  We thank all of you who could attend for your input.  We
feel you helped considerably to improve our focus on the issues.
      It is clear that the study area is rich with data and studies.  We
heard your appeal to build on an already good understanding of what and
where the problems are by adding to the ability to understand the underlying
processes associated with the problems and thereby gain insight about what
can be done about them.  A nutshell synopsis follows here.  A more detailed
summary of the 3 work groups for your information and comment is attached.
      Due to the abundance of data, the groundwater group encouraged a
focus on analysis of existing data and on collecting data on processes
affecting the source, transport, and fate of problematic constituents within
aquifer systems of the study unit.  The groundwater issues that were
emphasized included developing a better understanding of: relations between
shallow groundwater quality and land-use patterns (especially in hard rock
systems), trends in groundwater quality, well contamination threat or
vulnerability, age dating of groundwater samples, and groundwater and
surface-water interactions.
      The surface-water issues that were emphasized included developing a
better understanding of the impacts and processes associated with: toxics
(trace elements and synthetic organic compounds), nutrients, sediments
(particularly related to fate/transport of toxics and nutrients), stormwater
quality, and interbasin transfers of water.  There was discussion throughout
about developing approaches that interrelate and integrate data on sources
and loads of nutrients and toxics, data on sediment quality and toxics in
tissues (and data on sediment bioassays perhaps), knowledge of land use and
other factors (geology, hydrology, etc), and data on aquatic community
structure.  From the surface water and ecology groups, there was strong
encouragement to tailor priorities and approaches based on an understanding
of local conditions that builds on the available data, experience, and
      We believe that the strength of existing data, available expertice,
and the known extent of water-quality problems in the study area places the
LINJ NAWQA study in a unique position to address regional water quality
issues at a higher level than most NAWQA studies.  Our goal in assembling a
team will be to complement available expertice and thereby focus our
resources to better collaborate with you folks to push the state-of-the-
science in these areas.  We look forward to future discussions and hope we
can hold your interest.  We certainly are excited about the prospects.
      Speaking of holding your interest, don't forget to mark October 6,
1994 on your calendars for our next liaison meeting.  At your suggestion,
we'll condense the meeting time a little by starting at 10am and finishing
by 2:00 or 2:30pm.  Planned topics include: definition of existing data
sources and discussion of data-base issues, definition of the scope of
historical data analysis and preferred reporting outlet(s) of this analysis,
and perhaps discussion of some study design issues (stratification of study
area, bed sediment and tissue surveys).
      Regarding the availability of historical data, we'll be trying to do
some kind of initial (not exhaustive) survey of what's available before the
meeting and would like any feedback you might have to expedite/minimize the
effort or simply not duplicate others efforts.  A phone call or short note
would be appreciated.  We also welcome any comments you might have on the
liaison process, like what to change or who to add.

Points of Contact:
New Jersey office:                    Long Island office:
Mark Ayers      609-771-3932          Paul Stackelberg   516-938-8830
Janice Ward             3902          Bruno Nemickas     516-938-8830
Herb Buxton             3944          Henry Ku           516-938-8830
Eric Evenson            3970
Eric Vowinkel           3925
Jack Gibs               3945

                LINJ Liaison Committee meeting, May 13, 1994

                  Surface-Water Quality Work Group Summary

  The LINJ NAWQA study area encompasses a diverse setting, including the New
England (Highlands), Piedmont, and Coastal Plain physiographic provinces.
Surface waters range in quality from pristine to severly impacted.  For
example, there are trout streams in the headwater reaches of the Raritan and
Passaic River Basins, but in the lower reaches of these basins, wastewater
discharge makes up a large part of low flow.  Also, naturally acidic streams
are found in the NJ Pinelands and LI Pine Barrens, and streams and estuaries
along the coastal areas are tidally influenced.  Therefore, a broad range of
surface-water quality issues must be considered.  With this in mind, the
surface-water quality work group first listed all major issues that affect
the study area, about 20, and then regrouped the list into 9 broader issues,
discussed them, and ranked their importance.  A summary of the 9 issues with
comments is as follows:

High Priority Issues--
1.  Toxics (pesticides and other synthetic organics, and metals)
      - question of where to look (water, sediments, and organisms)
      - indication that ambient water concentrations do not relate well to
        observed bed sediment or tissue data
      - transport and fate issues probably tied to sediments and biota
      - accumulation in sediments and bioaccumulation effects is an issue;
        where, how much, what impact
      - issue in short-listed water bodies and harbor-complex systems
      - what are the cumulative impacts of many small sources
      - sources include:
                --land-use variability and the fact that differences exist
                  between and among land uses, especially in chemicals used
                  and amounts delivered
                --stormwater and CSO inputs
                --point-source inputs
                --hazardous-waste sites
                --household-use inputs and indescriminant disposal
                --atmospheric deposition
2.  Sediments (suspended and bed sediment)
      - quantity issues related to loading to streams, rivers, lakes,
        reservoirs, harbors, estuaries, and other coastal areas
      - quality issues related to role as a reservoir and transport media
        for nutrients and toxics, and to a role in the fate of pollutants in
        bed sediments
      - habitat issues related to mechanical effects on biota (abrasion) and
        to deposition impacts
      - resuspension of toxics on sediments
      - dredging disturbance and disposal
      - sources of sediment related to land use, surface runoff, and erosion
3.  Stormwater quality
      - CSO's very much an issue in older urban areas
      - balance betweem stormwater management practices for water quality
        and flood control
      - source of nutrients, pesticides, metals, sediment, bacteria, BOD,
        synthetic organics, and other toxics
4.  Nutients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon)
      - where to look (water, sediments, and organisms)
      - transformations and cycling are major issues in transport, fate, and
        availability for biota
      - sources include:
                --land use variability and the fact that differences exist
                  between and among land uses, especially in amounts used
                  and delivered
                --stormwater and CSO inputs
                --natural loading can be significant in some systems
                --point source inputs
                --atmospheric deposition
5.  Interbasin transfer of water impacts on quality (influent or effluent)
      - any water-quantity changes that directly or indirectly impact or
        affect quality and biology
      - common occurence in much of the study area
Other Issues--
6.  Bacteria and other pathogens
      - probably most common quality problem in study area
      - swimmable issues, water-contact recreation
      - shellfish-harvesting issues
      - drinking-water issues
      - sources include:
                --livestock operations
                --urban stormwater and CSO inputs
                --non-point source runoff from most areas
                --point source inputs
7.  Impacts of groundwater discharge on surface-water quality during
    baseflow conditions in streams
      - where and when does groundwater discharge with elevated
        concentrations of nutrients or toxics become a surface-water problem
      - what is the long-term fate of groundwater contaminants relative to
        changes in land management or chemical use practices
8.  Sensitivity of unique aquatic ecosystems and high quality streams to
    changes in quality or quantity
      - how can these systems be protected against change
      - how do atmospheric inputs or small changes in land use affect them
9.  Precipitation quality
      - what is the relative importance to loading of nutrients or toxics
      - lack of management control on sources hinders resolution
  The surface-water quality work group felt that it was important to consider
these priorities relative to local setting or conditions.  That is, in a
given area or subdrainage, not all these concerns would be present and the
relative priorities could change.  For example, nutrients are more important
than toxics in most headwater areas, but the reverse is more likely the case
in heavily urbanized downstream reaches.  Also, surface-water resources may
not be as heavily utilized as groundwater resources, on Long Island for
instance.  In addition, they pointed out that many areas of the study have
considerable water-quality data from a variety of sources.  Some of the data
have been analyzed, some have not; therefore, the group encouraged that an
effort be made to include all data to develop an improved basis for defining
priorities among and within areas.  In summary, for this complex study area,
the group recommended tailoring priorities (and approaches) based on an
understanding of local conditions that builds on the available data,
experience, and studies.

                         Ecology Work Group Summary

  There was an expressed belief that a lot of insight could be gained by
integrating biologic and more traditional water-quality approaches.  One way
or another, the group felt that biologic issues come down to the question of
how land use affects the structure or health of aquatic biologic
communities.  The group quickly decided that rather than list and prioritize
each water-quality issue, it would be better to describe the principal
biologic communities and how the NAWQA study could prioritize their use to
"quantify the extent to which various land uses impact or otherwise effect
these communities".  The focus of the group was to define what to look for
within specific areas of the study unit.
  Eight (8) ecological communities were identified as potential types for
studying aquatic biologic variability and health.  Although indicator
organisms and presence/absence measures can be used, the group strongly
urged an approach that has community structure and function as the preferred
study goal, and that more than one community be used to assess variability
and impacts.  The 8 communities with comments are as follows:

1.  Benthic macroinvertibrate community
      - very effective for many systems
      - State experience indicates not a lot of information gained, for the
        effort involved, by going beyond RBP-level 2
2.  Fish community and assemblage
      - Pinelands/Barrens communities very unique
      - strength is in using along with benthic invertibrate information
3.  Amphibians (frogs, turtles, salamanders, etc.)
      - particularly sensitive for some systems
      - not currently a NAWQA protocol
      - many endangered/threatened species in this group
4.  Algal community (periphyton and phytoplankton)
      - periphyton preferred but there are sampling problems to consider
5.  Microbiological community (bacteria, protozoa, and other pathogens)
      - serve as good indicators of point and non-point sources of
        contamination in shellfish growing areas and in areas of surface
        water contact sports
      - State and County programs seem quite adequate
6.  Aquatic macrophytes (submerged, emergent, riparian/wetland)
      - good as indicators of long-term change, both because changes in
        these communities are generally slow and because good reference
        collections often exist with which to compare
7.  Tissues (fish and benthic invertibrates) and
    biomarkers (tumors and enzyme tests)
      - recommend selective use with contaminated and reference sites
      - group stressed that it would be good to make it part of the analysis
        routine to record qualitative observations of fish and benthic
        invertibrate samples for biomarker anomalies
8.  Bioassays (whole water and bed sediment components)
      - State experience indicates tests of ambient water of marginal use,
        does not relate well to observed community structure or impacts
      - acute and chronic toxicity tests of bed sediments are now available
        and appear to be more useful in relating to observed community
        structure and impacts

  There are preferred communities to sample and these differ across the study
area.  Use of more than one community is a must.  The group recommended to
set up a matrix to list the priority communities for each specific area of
the study (defined by ecoregion, watershed, or similar basis) and tailor the
detail of the approach to the specific goal of assessment (variability or
impact), to the area being studied, and to the resources available.
  For example, in the Pinelands of NJ much is already known about vegetation
(#6 above) and fish from which to compare and contrast.  Amphibians are also
very sensitive to change in this system and offer some potential.  Less is
known about the natural variability of other communities of the Pinelands.
Not much could be determined in this session for how transferable data are
from the NJ Pinelands to the LI Pine Barrens.  In fact, except for the
Nature Conservancy interest in pond-type systems, the whole issue of SW
ecology of Long Island is a big question mark.  The State's experience in
northern NJ would indicate that much can be gleaned from information about
benthic macroinvertibrate and fish communities.

                  Groundwater Quality Work Group Summary

  Members of the groundwater quality working group concentrated their efforts
on identifying water-quality issues of highest priority within the study
unit.  It was quickly noted within the group that, contrary to many other
NAWQA study units, the collection of basic water-quality data (occurence and
distribution) was not a preeminent issue due to the relative abundance of
such data within much of the study unit.  Rather, the group focused on
analysis of existing data, and on the collection of data to improve our
understanding of relations between land use and shallow groundwater quality
and on processes affecting the source, transport, and fate of chemical
constituents within aquifer systems of the study unit.  An exception to this
may exist in the fractured hardrock environments of northern New Jersey and
southern New York where less information exists concerning our understanding
of the flow system and general groundwater quality conditions.
  Concern was expressed over the use of existing data and its ability to
accurately define current water-quality conditions in water quality both
spatially and temporally.  These concerns arise from limitations in the use
of existing data bases due to differences in (1) sampling procedures and
analytical methods, (2) sampling designs and study objectives, (3) spatial
distribution of well networks, and (4) water-quality constituents analyzed.
These differences may limit but usually do not preclude their use for some
level of regional analysis.  A major benefit of the NAWQA program will be to
provide an assessment of the data gaps that exist and to provide regionally
consistent water-quality analyses allowing for improved description of
existing conditions in some systems and, especially, some added continuity
for long-term monitoring of trends in water quality.
  Over 20 issues were identified after which each group member voted on his or
her three highest priority issues.  A summary and discussion of the five
highest priority issues follows:

1. Relations between shallow groundwater quality and land-use patterns
      - Review existing information within study unit concerning relations
        between shallow groundwater quality and land-use patterns to help
        prioritize major issues and identify water-quality constituents of
        primary concern.
      - This type of research has been performed in Coastal Plain aquifer
        systems, however, due to limitations in available ancillary data,
        groundwater quality has frequently been related to only three or
        four land-use categories.  It was noted that from a policy makers
        viewpoint this type of information is of limited use.  For example,
        simply knowing that a certain percentage of wells will be
        contaminated by VOCs in a medium-density residential area does not
        give much of a basis for changing that occurence.  We need to
        improve resolution of land-use data and/or define surrogate
        variables that better describe human activities in representative
        areas.  At the same time, we need to focus our attention on highest
        priority water-quality constituents within the study unit and
        provide the parties responsible for making land-use policies with
        more useful tools.
      - This type of research has generally not been performed within
        fractured hardrock environments of northern New Jersey and southern
        New York, therefore, a more typical NAWQA approach may be needed for
        this part of the study unit initially, and later invoke lessons
        learned from the Coastal Plain efforts.  The difficulty will be in
        getting a handle on the hydrology of these hard rock environments in
        terms of sources of water to observation and monitoring wells.

2.  Trends in groundwater quality
      - Once priority constituents are identified through evaluation of
        relations between shallow groundwater quality and land-use
        patterns, the need exists to identify trends (or lack of) in water
        quality for these constituents.  Both spatial and temporal trends
        need to be evaluated.
      - The general concern was centered on whether groundwater quality
        conditions are improving in areas known to have been impacted and
        for which water-quality remediation efforts have been initiated
        (such as sewering).  Preliminary work for constituents such as
        nitrate-nitrogen and chloride has been performed for parts of Long
        Island, however, further investigation is needed for constituents
        such as volatile organic compounds and pesticides.
      - There is concern for how to effectively monitor both the trends in
        groundwater quality and the concurrent ancillary variables related
        to the trends.

3.  Well contamination threat and vulnerability
      - Once priority constituents and trends in their concentrations are
        identified the need exists to identify the primary processes
        responsible for transport and fate of these constituents within
        aquifer systems of the study unit.
      - Issues identified include:
                --which constituents pose the greatest threat to the use of
                  groundwater resources,
                --what processes govern the transport and fate of these
                  constituents within the subsurface,
                --what portions of the aquifer systems are susceptible to
                  contamination by these constituents.

4.  Age dating of groundwater samples
      - Dating of groundwater samples was acknowledged as an important
        means by which to:
                --identify relations between shallow groundwater quality
                  and land-use patterns,
                --aid in evaluation of transport and fate of contaminants,
                --evaluate the extent and threat of contamination from high
                  priority constituents, and
                --evaluate the overall impact of human activities on ground-
                  water resources within study unit.

5.  Groundwater and surface-water interactions
      - This issue was approached both from the impact of groundwater
        quality on surface-water bodies in areas where streamflow is derived
        predominantly from groundwater discharge, and on the impact of
        surface-water quality on groundwater resources in areas where heavy
        groundwater pumpage may induce flow (recharge) to groundwater
        systems from surface-water bodies.
      - Issues identified include the impact of:
                --non-point and point sources of contamination on ground
                  water and subsequently on surface-water bodies during low-
                  flow periods,
                --numerous point sources of contamination of surface-water
                  bodies in highly urbanized areas where excessive ground-
                  water pumpage may induce flow to groundwater systems, and
                --non-point sources of contamination of surface-water bodies
                  in agricultural areas where excessive pumpage for
                  irrigation may induce flow to groundwater systems.

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