Post hearing comments on 
DRBC Wasteload Allocation Study of December, 1998

Our viewpoint: The DRBC has a responsibility to act to reduce toxics

June 11, 1999

Carol R. Collier, Executive Director
Delaware River Basin Commission
P. O. box 7360
West Trenton, NJ 08628

RE: Post hearing Comments on DRBC Wasteload Allocation Study of December, 1998

Dear Ms. Collier:

On May 3, 1999, the DRBC held a public hearing in Wilmington, DE, on the above topic. Frank Akutowicz testified for Green Delaware. The following comments, authored primarily by Mr. Akutowicz, are offered for consideration by the Commission. We found the proposed reductions desirable but insufficient. We recommend that the Commission adopt the proposed reductions but move ahead immediately to address the concerns identified below.

Our viewpoint: The DRBC has a responsibility to act to reduce toxics

The Commission has assumed authority under Article 5.2 of the Compact to abate existing pollution in the waters of the basin, and desires to use the standard which the signatory states agreed to in Section 5.2, to wit:

"... industrial ...waste... shall not injuriously affect waters of the basin ..."

Information developed by the DRBC and other entities shows that the waters of the basin are being "injuriously affected" by industrial and other waste. Ecological and public health concerns demand that toxic loadings to the estuary be reduced and eliminated. It is intrinsic to the mandate of the DRBC that the Commission use every means with in its power to carry out these reductions. Consequently we approve of the modest discharge reductions recommended for 2 of 3 chlorinated hydrocarbons in wide use throughout the watershed. Reducing loading of these 2 chemicals (out of the approximately 70,000 in commercial use) is a small but valuable step towards the Commission's carrying out its responsibilities in this area.


We find that many of the assumptions used to establish the proposed reductions favor dischargers rather than health and ecological considerations. This implies that the proposed reductions are insufficient. For example:

In "Wasteload Allocations" at

Page 1. Existing waste loading from tributaries is set at the lower of either actual data or the permitted water quality criterion, thus favoring polluters.

Page 1. The water quality objective is the higher of the background concentration or the permitted water quality, also favoring the polluter by allowing a higher toxic concentration.

Page 1. "... in order not to penalize point sources for impacts attributable to non-point sources." Since the actual sources are unknown this is a bias against the public health. (The assumption is that reducing pollution is a "penalty.")

Page 1. TMDLs are not reduced sufficiently for a margin safety. On page 9 there is even some discussion of 5% growth of design effluent flows. Since these water flows originate in the watershed this amounts to a further increase in TMDLs.

Page 2. "Provide maximum equity ... between competing discharges;"

We find this assumption objectionable. Equity lies with protection of public health, not in shielding dischargers from the consequences of their actions.

Page 2. "Minimize, within institutional and legal constraints, the overall cost of compliance."

Of course the cheapest solution is to throw the whole mess in the water and hope for the best. The "overall cost" should include the costs of organo-chlorine damage to many industries and to public health. As one example of many, what about the damage to the bay oyster industry by making the oysters vulnerable to bacterial infections through weakening of their immune systems? (See University of Maryland Marine Notes, Sept. 1992.)

In Calibration and Validation at

Page 33. "Grab samples were collected ... At three locations on a transect across the river (in center channel and near both banks)." The three grab samples from each transect were then immediately composited resulting in one sample for each location." Since the plumes associated with the point sources are near one bank or the other the effect of compositing is to dilute the sample and thus bias it ain favor of the discharger-and increased TMDLs. Similar methodological problems are described on pages 45 and 47.

Page 39. "Grab samples were collected ... at three locations on a transect across the river (in center channel and near both banks). The individual grab samples for volatile organic analyses were then individually preserved ... immediately after collection. This procedure resulted in three samples per transect ...." "For the stations where all three DCE transect samples were detected, an average DCE concentration was then calculated ..."

Averages were only calculated when all three numbers were present. The effect of discarding one or two observations if one or two of the others are zero is to make the river seem cleaner than it actually is and thus permit increased TMDLs which is contrary to public health objectives and to the Compact as noted above.

Page 40. The same problems are seen with respect to PCE.

 Inappropriate Reliance on Dispersion and Volatilization.

Figure 2 in "Calibration and Validation" shows a number of processes other than dispersion, volatilization and outflow taking place in the river. Dispersion or, more properly, dilution seems to be the main transformation process relied on by the Commission to characterize the toxic condition of the river. Bioaccumulation, although mentioned in Figure 2, is not considered in any of the 4 Commission reports. Although bioaccumulation reduces the water column concentrations it increases the food chain concentration and implies a public health insult. The Commission should adopt use and discharge limitations that are fully cognizant of known and reasonably anticipated accumulative processes. We anticipate that this would lead to more restrictive limitations.

The Commission seems to credit volatilization as the main process transforming toxicity in the river. Section 2.2 of "Calibration and Validation" is given over almost entirely to volatilization. If this is the case we have two criticisms:

Transferring a toxin from the river water to the air allows the Commission to expand TMDLs for water at the expense of degraded air quality. This is not an appropriate exercise of Commission responsibility for public health. The Commission should fully consider the air quality and public health impacts of relying on partition of toxins into the atmosphere.

The partition between dilution and volatilization is difficult to characterize for flowing water. Consequently, reliance on volatilization lacks credibility.

 Public Health Consequences Should Be Considered Directly

The public health consequences of toxic discharges into the river include developmental disorders, and damage to organs, immune systems, nervous systems, and reproductive systems. The consequences are a shortened and degraded quality of life for the inhabitants of the Delaware River Basin. The myriad life forms making up the biota of the river/estuary system experience similar effects.

 Zero Discharge

Green Delaware has previously testified in favor of a "zero discharge" approach for managing water quality in the Delaware. Growing data on the persistence of toxins with a long half-life and accumulative properties in our waters continues to strengthen the arguments for this approach. The DRBC should also support the phase-out of substances (such as chlorine) which apparently cannot be used industrially without unacceptable consequences.

Respectfully submitted,

Alan J. Muller
Executive Director
Green Delaware

(c) Alan Muller 302.834.3466
June 11, 1999


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