DEP RELEASES RESULTS
OF FOUR-YEAR WATER STUDY
Study Lays Groundwork for Better Testing of Water Supplies
for Previously Unidentified Chemicals
(03/27) TRENTON - The New Jersey
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today released
a study examining the presence of previously unidentified
chemicals and compounds in drinking water supplies that
come from ground water. These Tentatively Identified Compounds
(TICs) are substances that can be detected through analytical
tests, but which still require further investigation to
determine their identities and concentrations.
"It is really an important part of
protecting public health to understand the likelihood of
different contaminants in our public water systems,"
said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "It will
need to be followed up not merely by further studies but
by a closer look at whether current treating and testing
methods are adequate to protect public health."
New Jersey is the first state to conduct
such a broad, national study investigating the presence
of a number of potential contaminants. The study focused
on water systems around the state known to draw from underground
or surface water that contain high levels of volatile chemicals
prior to conventional treatment. Scientists used these water
systems to get a worst-case scenario for the types of chemicals
that may be missed in conventional water testing. The study
also examined cleaner water systems and certain brands of
bottled water for comparison.
Sampling for these substances is analogous
to taking a photograph. A photograph captures its subject
in clear focus, but also has detail that is fuzzy in the
background. This study examines the hundreds of chemicals
normally in the background of conventional water quality
"Today we have technological capabilities
that were not available even one year ago," Campbell
added. "With the emergence of more sensitive testing
for other chemicals, we can more accurately assess the safety
of our drinking water to take all appropriate steps to protect
The New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act
currently requires extensive testing of drinking water supplies,
with federal and state standards for over 80 different substances.
This routine testing more than adequately protects public
health in detecting known contaminants.
DEP conducted the study in conjunction
with Dr. Brian Buckley of the Environmental and Occupational
Health Sciences Institute of New Jersey.
"This study shows that there are many
more chemicals that are involved with our daily lives than
anyone may have previously realized," said Dr. Buckley.
"More significantly, the study demonstrates the improvement
in our ability to detect these compounds at very low levels."
Of the many TICs detected in the study,
most were present in minute concentrations, occurring at
concentrations of less than one part per billion (ppb).
Many of the TICs are classified as non-volatile or semi-volatile
compounds, unlike the VOCs that standard water quality treatments
can more easily remove.
Volatile compounds boil at low temperatures
and "evaporate" more readily into the air. Non-volatile
compounds - which include some pharmaceuticals, dyes and
inks - evaporate much more slowly or not at all. Semi-volatile
compounds fall somewhere in between and include substances
such as fragrances and certain components of fuel oils.
Further work is underway to identify and
to quantify definitively some of the TICs detected during
this study. The full report, as well as research project
summary, is available at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr.