Final TMDLs Approved by EPA: Sassafras River

The Sassafras River watershed is located in Cecil and Kent Counties, with the eastern most portion of the watershed extending through Delaware. It drains to the Chesapeake Bay. The tidal portion of the watershed extends as far east as its intersection with Route 301. The tidal range is 1.6 feet (0.49 meters (m)) based on the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tidal station in Betterton, MD. The depths of the river range from about 6 inches (0.15 m) in the headwaters to greater than 35 feet (11 m) in the middle of the river. The widths vary from 400 feet (122 m) at the headwaters of the tidal embayment to 6,560 feet (2,000 m) at the mouth. 

The Maryland water quality regulations state that all surface waters of Maryland shall be protected for water contact recreation, fishing, and protection of aquatic life and wildlife. The specific designated use for Sassafras River Oligohaline segments (also referred to as the Sassafras River embayment) is Use II – Support of Estuarine and Marine Aquatic Life and Shellfish Harvesting. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has identified the waters of the Sassafras River Oligohaline segment (Integrated Report Assessment Unit Identification: MD-SASOH) on the State’s Integrated Report as impaired by the following pollutants (listing year in parentheses): nutrients (1996), sediments (1996 – later changed to a total suspended solids (TSS) listing), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in fish tissue (2002).

A phosphorus TMDL was approved by the US EPA in 2002 to address the 1996 nutrients listing. The TSS listing was moved from Category 5 of the Integrated Report (waterbody is impaired, does not attain the water quality standard, and a TMDL is required) to Category 2 (water body is meeting some [in this case TSS-related] water quality standards, but with insufficient data to assess all impairments) in the 2008 Integrated Report. The document, available below, establishes a total PCB (tPCB) TMDL for the Sassafras River Oligohaline segment. Data solicitation for PCB related information was conducted by MDE, and all readily available data have been considered.  

Total Maximum Daily Loads of Polychlorinated Biphenyls in the Sassafras River, Oligohaline Segment, Cecil and Kent Counties, Maryland

(Approved on March 22, 2011)

EPA's Decision Letter EPA's Decision Letter
(Does not include MDE's requested revisions)
MDE's Edits to EPA's Decision Letter MDE's Decision Letter Edits (35KB)

Portable Document Format

Main Report

TMDL_Sassafras_River_PCBs.pdf (924KB)

Comment Response Document

CRD_Sassafras_River_PCBs.pdf (29KB)


Contact Information

Please direct questions or comments concerning this project to Maryland's TMDL Program at (410) 537-3818.