New Jersey Water Science Center
Great Falls of the Passaic River at Paterson, N.J.
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Background Metals in Surface Water
Project Title: Background Metals in Surface Water
To support the development of TMDLs or other appropriate management responses for the metals impairments, a targeted monitoring project is needed. The proposed investigations are envisioned to proceed in phases. The objective of the first phase of the proposed investigation is to determine the extent to which metals impairments are attributable to either (1) naturally occurring conditions or air deposition consistent with contributions from out of state, referred to henceforth as background conditions, or (2) are the result of localized anthropogenic sources, in addition to background levels. The second phase is to establish the relative contribution of and spatial extent affected by the sources of the pollutant, where an anthropogenic source (beyond air deposition) is determined to exist. In addition, the data collected or already available will be needed for calibration of TMDL models.
Statement of Problem
Results of water-quality sampling in tributaries and major rivers of New Jersey have revealed that arsenic levels that exceed the human-health-based Surface Water Quality Standard (SWQS) are widespread. Exceedences of the mercury SWQS are prevalent, although less widespread than arsenic exceedences. New Jersey's draft 2006 Integrated List of Waterbodies identifies the number of stream segments that are impaired with respect to Arsenic (As) at 76. Mercury (Hg) impairments in the water column are listed at 23 segments, Hg exceedences in fish tissue at 104 segments, and other metals (including cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), and zinc (Zn)) at 36. Streams containing some of the "other" metals may prove to be unimpaired if additional samples taken under prescribed conditions support a revised determination. The majority of the 76 As-impaired stream reaches listed (2006 Integrated Sublist 5) are in northern New Jersey, with most of those in the Piedmont Physiographic Province. There are also As-impaired stream reaches in southern New Jersey, most of which flow through the Inner Coastal Plain (fig. 1). Most of the Hg impairments occur in stream reaches in the Coastal Plain and in the Piedmont, and the majority of these are also impaired with respect to As. In addition, several lakes in southern New Jersey's Outer Coastal Plain are impaired with respect to Hg. Impairments with respect to other metals appear to be most prevalent in the Piedmont Province.
Strategy and Approach
The state's Physiographic Provinces will be used as an organizing concept for investigating As and Hg, as geology as a source or influence is known to be significant and to vary by province, as each of these have the same general types of geologic formations. These would be Valley and Ridge, Highlands, and Piedmont Provinces in northern New Jersey. In southern New Jersey, the Coastal Plain Province would be divided into Inner and Outer Coastal Plain regions, as geologic inputs with regard to As (and perhaps Hg) are known to be different for the two regions. To maximize efficiency in addressing metals impairments, other metals impairments will be investigated in parallel with As and Hg.