Special Protections Waters designation for Delaware River
In 1992, in response to a petition submitted by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the DRBC designated the Middle and Upper Delaware River as Special Protection Waters and created a special body of regulations that mandated protection of the Existing Water Quality of the designated portions of the River. In 2008, following a second petition from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the DRBC designated the Lower Delaware River as Special Protection Waters as well. As a result of these designations, the Delaware River has the longest stretch of River in the nation with this highest, anti-degradation level of protection.
In order to protect “existing water quality” the regulations discourage direct discharges of wastewater. Where such discharges are allowed, the regulations mandate a higher level of treatment. In addition to these provisions, the regulations were also meant to provide protections from nonpoint sources of pollution by requiring a prioritization of special protection water drainage areas that could have an adverse impact on the water quality of Special Protection Waters designated by the DRBC and to ensure creation and implementation of nonpoint source pollution control plans for those priority areas.
The Delaware River Special Protection Waters designation is the foundation upon which the moratorium against shale gas extraction, drilling and fracking within our watershed is based.
The prioritization of the Middle and Upper Delaware River was set to be completed by 1996; for the Lower Delaware River by, at latest, 2007. Nonpoint source pollution control plans should have been completed for the Middle and Upper Delaware River by 2001; for the Lower Delaware River by 2013. All such deadlines have been missed.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network has submitted a new petition to the DRBC to secure full implementation of the Special Protection Waters regulations and program.