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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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Community Water System Reports and Summaries Contaminant Definitions

Pathogens
Disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Sources of pathogens include both point and nonpoint activities. An example of a point source of pathogens is a sewer system overflow. An example of a nonpoint source is runoff from areas where livestock are kept.

Nutrients
Common types of nutrients include nitrogen and phosphorous. Nutrients can harm environmental quality, human health, and the efficiency of the drinking water treatment plant by encouraging growth of photosynthetic microorganisms in surface water sources, which alter water characteristics (eutrophic conditions). Sources of nutrients are point and nonpoint sources. Effluents from a sewage treatment plant are a point source of nutrients. Nonpoint sources of nutrients include discharge from septic fields, areas where animal waste is stored, and runoff from agricultural and residential land where fertilizers were used.

Pesticides
Common sources of pesticides include land applications (nonpoint source) and manufacturing/distribution centers of pesticides (point source). Pesticides are manmade chemicals used to control bacteria, fungi, weeds, rodents, and insects. Examples include herbicides such as atrazine and insecticides such as chlordane.

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Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Common types of VOCs include chemicals that are used as solvents, degreasers, and gasoline components. VOCs are manmade compounds and are the most common organic contaminants in ground water in New Jersey. Sources of VOCs can be point and nonpoint. Examples of VOCs are methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), benzene and vinyl chloride.

Inorganics (Metals)
Mineral-based compounds that are both naturally occurring and manmade. Sources of inorganics can be point and nonpoint; common sources include discharges from manufacturing plants, releases from contaminated sites, past land uses, and naturally occurring sources. Inorganics include arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and asbestos.

Radionuclides/Radon
Sources of radionuclides can be point and nonpoint; common sources include the decay of naturally occurring minerals, leaching of subsurface material (for example rocks and sedimentary materials) into ground water, and improper disposal of radioactive waste. Radionuclides are a category of contaminant that is both naturally occurring and manmade. Radionuclides are radioactive substances such as radium and radon.

Disinfection Byproduct (DBP) Precursors
Disinfection byproducts are formed when the disinfectants used to kill pathogens during treatment react with dissolved organic material present in the water. A common source of DBP precursors is naturally occurring organic material such as leaves in surface water. The amount of organic matter, the type of disinfectant, the concentration of disinfectant, time of contact, pH, and temperature all have an effect on the concentration of disinfection byproducts produced. Chlorine is the most common disinfectant used in New Jersey.

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Last Updated: July 23, 2014