For Immediate Release
Widespread Contamination Found in New Jersey Drinking Water
Survey of Wells Is Far From Well; State Does Not Follow-Up on Pollutants
TRENTON, NJ - Tens of thousands of New Jersey residents are drinking polluted
water, according to a new state report. Despite widespread exposure to
drinking unsafe well water, state health officials ignore the risks to
an unknowing public, according to Public Employees for Environmental
The new report from the state Private Well Testing Act Program
covers the five-year period from 2002-2007 and includes samples from
more than one out of eight of the estimated 400,000 private residential
drinking water wells in New Jersey. The results are sobering:
- More than 12% of over 51,000 residential wells sampled failed to meet drinking water standards;
most common standard violations were for "gross alpha particle
activity2 (2,209 wells), arsenic (1,445 wells), nitrates (1,399 wells),
fecal coliform or E. coli (1,136 wells), volatile organic compounds
(VOCs) (702 wells), and mercury (215 wells)"; and
figures do not count extensive contamination from lead, found in more
than 5,200 wells, because the state Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) considered the "results to be questionable" in part
due to "unrealistically high concentrations of lead..."
"This report says that when you drink from a well in New Jersey, do
so at your own risk," stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a
former DEP analyst. "What is at the bottom of these wells proves that
the state testing program is broken and in need of a total overhaul."
Among the failings cited by PEER that require legislative or regulatory reform are -
- No requirement to fix pollution problems discovered. As
noted in the report, "The Act and subsequent regulations do not require
water treatment if any test parameter standard level is exceeded."
of polluted wells are not required to be warned. "...because these
individual tests are considered confidential, the exact location of the
well test failure cannot be identified"; and
- The Private
Well Testing Act cannot be enforced. "Since no state agency has the
ability to verify that all real estate transactions (sales and leases)
subject to testing under the PWTA have been reported to NJDEP, the
absence of results, along with errors or mistakes in the reported data,
could have a significant impact on the evaluation and interpretation of
the data presented."
"A classic example of what's wrong occurred in Sussex County, Byram
Township, where a well at a house being sold was found to be seriously
contaminated with trichloroethylene. The public notification
regulations suggest that the local health authority notify neighboring
properties within at least 200 feet but because no homes were located
within 200 feet of the property, neither the local health authority nor
the state performed any subsequent sampling," Wolfe added. "Our
drinking water protections should be - but are not - better than those
in the Third World."
New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state
and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure
environmental ethics and government accountability
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