News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Commissioner
For Release:
November 15, 1999
For Further Information Contact:
DHSS -- Rita Manno or Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160
DEP -Loretta O'Donnell
(609) 984-1795
ATSDR - Mike Groutt
(404) 639-0501
NJ Home Page DHSS Home Page

Report on Dover Township's Public Water System Released for Public Comment

TRENTON - The New Jersey departments of Health and Senior Services, and Environmental Protection and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) today released for public comment a report on water quality in Dover Township's public water supply.

The report summarizes all the results of public drinking water testing conducted since the beginning of the Dover Township childhood cancer investigation in 1996. As they became available, the water testing results have been released to the public over the past three years through the local Citizens Action Committee on Childhood Cancer Cluster (CACCCC).

Public Health Consultation: Drinking Water Quality Analyses, March 1996 to June 1999 - United Water Toms River will be presented this evening at the CACCCC's regularly scheduled meeting. Written comments on the report may be submitted to the state health department through January 14, 2000.

The water consultation is the fourth report released as part of a public health response plan developed in June 1996 in response to community concerns about the township's elevated childhood cancer rates. The state Department of Health and Senior Services and ATSDR developed the plan in coordination with the CACCCC and the Ocean County Health Department.

In 1997, the department released an analysis of childhood cancer in the township, using updated state Cancer Registry data. In August 1999, two health assessments were released for public comment on the Reich Farm Superfund site and the Dover Township Municipal Landfill. The final report in the series, a health assessment of the Ciba-Geigy site, will be released in January.

"The report we're releasing today documents the most comprehensive examination of a water system ever undertaken in New Jersey," said DHSS Senior Assistant Commissioner James Blumenstock. "Our testing went well beyond state and federal drinking water requirements."

Water quality in the United Water Toms River system was determined by testing water from more than 50 locations, from source wells to tap water. Samples were tested for more than 250 contaminants, rather than the 80 that are required under state and federal regulation.

In most respects, the public water supply studied appears typical of groundwater-based community water supplies in southern New Jersey.

However, water testing results, which were originally released in 1996, showed that a previously unidentified contaminant -- styrene-acrylonitrile trimer -- was found in samples from certain water system supply wells in the Parkway well field. The trimer, a by-product of plastics manufacturing, is linked to the Reich Farm Superfund site. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is now overseeing research into the potential toxicity of the trimer. Meanwhile, treatment systems have been installed to remove chemicals in water for the affected wells. The report recommends that the special treatment continue until contaminated groundwater from Reich Farm no longer threatens the wells.

The report also recommends that past exposure to Parkway well field water be considered in the epidemiologic study of childhood cancer in Dover Township. This issue has already been included in the epidemiologic study now underway. The study will be completed next year, with an interim report expected later this year.

Between 1979 and 1995, 90 children in the township were diagnosed with cancer where statistically only 67 cases were expected. Elevations were seen in leukemia and in brain and nervous system cancers.

The epidemiologic study of these cancers includes interviews with parents of 199 Dover Township children -- 40 children diagnosed with cancer and a control group comprised of the remaining children. The study also examines the birth records of 528 children who were born to Dover Township residents, including 48 children later diagnosed with cancer. The study will assess exposure to local environmental hazards and other risk factors, such as family medical history and dietary factors.

According to the water consultation, the volatile organic compound trichloroethylene (TCE) also was found in low levels in water samples taken in 1996 and traced to a well located at the Parkway well field well. That well is now undergoing special treatment. Elevated lead and copper levels were found in "first-draw" samples from water that sat in several schools' plumbing systems overnight, indicating corrosion of metals from the building plumbing. Samples taken after the water had run a few minutes contained low levels of these metals. School officials were advised to run water before it is used each morning. Elevated levels of naturally-occurring radium were also found in some of the water system's wells that draw from the shallow Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer. Radium is widespread in shallow wells throughout southern New Jersey.

Copies of the report (PDF 462K) and a citizen's guide will be available at the Ocean County Health Department and Dover Township Public Library for 60 days beginning November 16. Copies of the report may be obtained by calling the Toms River field office of the state Department of Health and Senior Services at (732) 505-4188, or by visiting the department's web site at www.state.nj.us/health.

Written comments must be postmarked by January 14, 2000, and sent to: New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Consumer and Environmental Health Services, Health Assessment Project Manager, P.O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360.

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