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Private Well Testing Act Results: Well Water Quality Worsening in New Jersey

Date : Wed, 27 Jun 2012 12:08:44 -0400

Worsening in New Jersey

For Immediate Release
June 19, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Well Water Quality Worsening in New Jersey

The DEP has released it latest update to testing results from the Private Well Testing Act.Between 2002 and 2009 over 62,600 wells were tested across the state.Unfortunately one out of every eight wells was in violation of safe limits for arsenic, alpha, mercury, nitrates, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these toxins are naturally occurring but the majority are a result of pollution and overdevelopment.Sprawl and overdevelopment create a serious groundwater pollution problem in New Jersey.A previous study found that one-third of wells are impacted by overdevelopment.

"New Jersey is failing when it comes to protecting families on individual wells from pollution.Not only do one-in-eight wells actually fail and are a risk to public health, but there are thousands of other wells that put people at risk.This is not only a serious health problem, but it shows that overdevelopment and the failure to clean up contaminated sites could be impacting people's health," *said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club*. New Jersey DEP groundwater standards are 2 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of nitrates in high quality watersheds and 5.6 mg/L everywhere else.However, the test is done to the Clean Water Act maximum contaminant level of 10 mg/L.1689 wells in New Jersey exceeded this standard, roughly 1 in 37 wells. But more would be in violation if the New Jersey standards were used. Wells across the state had levels over 100 mg/L: Hopatcong Borough's maximum was 106 mgL,Rockaway Township's 153 mgL, Upper Pittsgrove's 109 mg/L and Mansfield Township (Burlington) had a well test at 480 mgL.In two Cape May County towns the wells had over 60 mgL.A well in Stafford Township tested at 72 mg/L, while Upper Deerfield Township reached87.2 mgL and Buena Vista reached 63.1 mgL.Water coming out of a septic system is only 40 mg/L and some septics with denitrafication can lower that by a third to a half. This is due to broken systems or high density development. Nitrates can cause major health problems when they are found in drinking water exceeding safety levels.Nitrate is a water soluble chemical that cannot be removed from water.It is critical not only for ecological health but protection of public health.Too much nitrate in water impacts the health of people with autoimmune deficiencies and cancer and cause blue baby syndrome in pregnant women. However groundwater protections are being weakened.The DEP Water Quality Planning rules would have required counties to develop density standards for development on septic systems to limit pollution.But this year Governor Christie signed a bill allowing counties to submit plans under the rules for only sewer service areas, delaying the implementation of protective septic standards.

The DEP is also holding closed door meetings with special interests to weaken the nitrate dilution model used in current regulations.The DEP Science Advisory Board, which is made up of corporate interests, also attacked the nitrate model.The nitrate dilution model is one of the basic tools used to protect ground water quality and land use.The current model has been upheld in court in protecting areas in the Highlands and Pinelands and setting basic zoning densities in communities throughout New Jersey.The administration wants to weaken the models and standards used to add more development in environmentally sensitive areas.But adding more people you are could result in more pollution.

"The failure of DEP to adopt strong Water Quality Management Plans and septic density standards that are protective of the public health is putting many people in harm's way from the high levels of nitrates that have been reported.Weakening these standards promotes overdevelopment that further pollutes groundwater," said Jeff Tittel. Wells in Southern New Jersey were tested for Mercury.One in 92 wells had mercury levels that exceeded the safety standard, 2 ug/L.Egg Harbor had wells test at 114.2 ug/L and Monroe (Gloucester) wells reached 83.3 ug/L.Several towns had levels in the thirties- Waterford Township, Winslow Township, Franklin Township (Gloucester), Deerfield Township, and Fairfield Township (Cumberland). Mercury is naturally occurring, but by burning coal from power plants and other industrial sources the mercury gets deposited into our streams and rivers.If ingested mercury can become a dangerous neurotoxin, and damage the brain and nervous system.Mercury is particularly harmful to pregnant women and children causing severe birth defects, such as developmental disorders and learning disabilities. The Christie administration failed to clean up the mercury pollution from coal fired power plants. Last year the Governor chose not to join seven other northeastern states in a lawsuit to support the EPA's Cross State Air Pollution Rule to reduce the amount of pollution from coal plants to our west.One-third of New Jersey's pollution comes from such out-of-state sources.Instead the Governor chose to petition the EPA to require emission reductions at individual Mid-Western power plants.These individual challenges will be tied up in court and will not require emission reductions as quickly as EPA regulations. One in seventy one wells in New Jersey exceeded safe levels of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).A well in Bound Brook exceeded safe levels by 20% while a well in Lindenwold was 16.7% over maximum contaminant levels. A number of municipalities across the state had levels over 5% higher than what is considered safe, including Vineland City, Berlin Township, Winslow Township, East Brunswick, Woodbridge, Ewing, South Bound Brook, High Bridge Borough, Franklin Township (Warren), Bloomingdale Borough, and Woodland Park. It has been shown that there are links between VOCs and asthma in children. Other health risks include liver and kidney problems, and nervous system damage. VOCs are also possible carcinogens. VOCs in groundwater can also migrate under buildings and cause vapor intrusion.VOCs come from a variety of pollutants from industrial facilities to tail pipe emissions.

"This shows a clear failure by DEP to adequately cleanup toxic sites and this problem will only get worse with the privatization of toxic site clean ups through the Licensed Site Remediation Professionals program and allowing them to waive their own standards," said Jeff Tittel. The DEP Science Advisory Board just released a report on the "impact to groundwater" standards (IGW) for soil contamination.The report, prepared by corporate interests, could play a significant role in weakening protections for our groundwater drinking water supplies by allowing more chemical pollution.The Board recommends allowing site specific exemptions that would result in more pollution in our groundwater.The changes would write off areas from having clean water and would weaken the standard that all groundwater in New Jersey are considered potable and have to be cleaned to a potable standard.This is 40 years of New Jersey environmental law that they want to undo.Last year the Board wanted to roll back the million-to-one standard for cancer rates for toxic pollution to groundwater.

"Instead of using science to protect the public, we are now using the polluter-dominated Science Advisory Board as an excuse to weaken environmental protections and actually ignore sound science," *said Jeff Tittel*. "The Private Well Testing results show the failure of current programs and instead of strengthening them they are weakening them further." Arsenic found in wells can be naturally occurring or the result of human actions such as pesticide use or industrial operations.One in fifteen wells tested in Northern New Jersey exceeded the maximum containment level of 5 ugL.The highest levels were in Hopewell Twp at 254 ugL. About one in four wells in Hopewell was in violation of safe levels.Several towns had wells testing at levels over 120 ug/L: Kingwood, Raritan Twp (Hunterdon), West Amwell, and Montgomery Township.Wells exceeding 30 ug/L were found in West Milford, Franklin Lakes, Saddle River, White Township, Harding Twp, Mendham Boro, Alexandria, East Amwell, Delaware Twp, Frenchtown, Lambertville, Readington, Tewksbury, Bernards Township, Branchburg, Bridgewater, Franklin Twp (Somerset), Hillborough, and South Brrunswick.

"With development on septics, the nitrogen actually pushes the arsenic out of the soil, impacting the wells.Overdevelopment on septics leads to higher levels of arsenic in groundwater," said Tittel. South Jersey wells were tested for alpha radiation contamination.More than one in ten wells exceeds the maximum contaminant level of 15 pCi/L.Alpha radiation is naturally occurring.A well in Tabernacle tested at 1510 pCiL.Towns with wells exceeding 200 pCiL include Franklin Twp (Gloucester), Monroe Twp (Gloucester), Upper Deerfield, Buena Vista, Egg Harbor, and Mullica. The test results do not include information for fecal coliform.The last test results showed that over 1,000 wells or 2.2 % exceeded safety levels and now we cannot tell how many people are being impacted.

"This is part of the administration's 'don't test, don't tell' policy.By leaving the data on fecal coliform out of reporting, people may be drinking raw sewage creating a health emergency.We are concerned this is part of the DEP deliberately not wanting to test for certain things to not show how bad it is and the impacts overdevelopment is having on groundwater.This puts thousands of people in harm's way," *said Jeff Tittel*. The Governor has basically gotten rid of the Drinking Water Quality Institute.The administration has not adopted standards for perchlorate and PFOA even though we have the science in place to adopt protections.They have downgraded and eviscerated the DEP Division of Science and have replaced it with the Science Advisory Board which is primarily made up of polluters and corporate interests.

"Is this glass half empty or half full?Given the results of these tests I am not sure you want to drink the glass in the first place," *said Jeff Tittel*. "The purpose of the Act was to find out where the pollution is occurring so DEP could warn neighbors and clean up the sources of pollution.Instead we are seeing groundwater getting worse in each report, putting more people at risk." The Private Well Testing results are available on the DEP website:<a>

Kate Millsaps
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NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2012-06-27 09:08:44

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