The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave final approval to a rule that limits the toxicity of dredge spoils dumped in the ocean off the New Jersey coast. The rule prohibits sediment containing more than 113 parts per billion of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from being placed at the Historic Area Remediation Site several miles off the coast of Sandy Hook.
The EPA has used the 113 ppb standard since 2000, but a federal judge last summer overturned the standard, saying it was adopted without following proper procedures. EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny proposed the standard as a rule last October.
"This administration has once again demonstrated its commitment to protecting the ocean by getting the PCB rule finalized so quickly," EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said.
PCBs accumulate in the food chain, potentially causing cancer in people. Increased understanding of the potential damage caused by PCBs prompted the state Department of Environmental Protection in January to announce more restrictive consumption advisories for PCBs in 13 species of fish, including bluefish and striped bass.
The EPA's move comes one week after the state Legislature forwarded to Gov. James E. McGreevey a bill intended to achieve the same thing. McGreevey has not yet signed the bill into law, but ocean advocacy groups say he should.
Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, said Monday that a state law would help protect New Jersey's coast from the effects of ocean dumping if the federal standard is again challenged in court.
"The proposed law is an important backstop to the EPA's rule, and it also is a strong message that New Jersey is going to empower itself to protect its coast," Zipf said.
The New Jersey law would prohibit ships containing dredge spoils tainted with more than 113 ppb of PCBs from sailing through state waters to reach the remediation site.
A bill in Congress also would codify the 113 ppb standard while prohibiting the EPA from issuing a rule that is less protective than 113 ppb. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Frank Pallone, D-6th, and Chris Smith, R-4th.
"EPA's decision today solidifies the importance of the 113 ppb standard, and should provide momentum in Congress for passage of my bipartisan legislation," Pallone said.