Publication Center


2005 Annual Report

January 23, 2006
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Over 100 years ago, the metropolitan waterways were in a deplorable state. Water quality was at an extreme low due to industrial pollution and raw sewage. The world’s most productive oyster and clam beds were condemned, finfish stocks were depleted and tasted like “oil”, health agencies were inundated with patients suffering from dozens of different types of waterbourne diseases from using recreational waters — many never to reopen in the 20th century — and the air was clogged with coal dust. This was a time when interstate conflicts arose regarding the sanitary conditions of the waters surrounding and shared by the States of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Fortunately, returning to the water is a national focus. The Clean Water Act, established in 1972, set a national goal to restore and maintain the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the waters of the United States. This year is the 69th anniversary of the Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) — an agency with a mandate to protect this Tri-State Region’s waters long before the creation of state and national environmental entities, and before national standards were established. The Commission is gratified to report about the great improvements in water quality throughout the Region where the majority of the waters are fishable and swimmable. However, the region still faces problems — some of which are local, and some global in nature. Hypoxia, sediment contamination, pathogens, habitat loss, combined sewer overflows, atmospheric deposition, invasive species, impacts on living marine resources, land use issues and public education have all been identified as priority areas of concern. All of these issues have socioeconomic impacts throughout the Region.

Following the recommendation of the Tri-State Treaty Commission, the Tri-State Compact establishing the District and the Commission was enacted in 1936, with the Consent of Congress. The Commission has an overall responsibility of protecting the environment by viewing the District from a regional, impartial and unbiased perspective. Whereas each state deals with issues within its own borders, the Commission can and does cross state lines. The Commission strives to harmonize water quality standards, regulations and requirements throughout its District.

The mandates of the Commission are governed by the Tri-State Compact, Statutes, and the IEC’s Water Quality Regulations. In addition to its mandates in water pollution, the capabilities and benefits of the Commission as a regional agency were also recognized when the IEC’s interstate air pollution program began in 1962, and were further reinforced in 1970 when the Commission was designated as the coordinating and planning agency for the New Jersey-New York-Connecticut Air Quality Control Region. As the Commission plans to meet its mandates and goals for the future, IEC must adapt to adverse conditions, but rely on good science and sound engineering as an integral part of the decision-making process. The Metropolitan Area contains a world class harbor that is able to support a wide spectrum of commercial and recreational industries and activities.