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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
3/10/03

Contact: Patricia Cabrera
(609) 984-1795

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 testing.

"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 public health."

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.

 

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