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Contact: Kathleen Bird
9/10/02 609-341-5312 or
Fred Mumford

Private Well Testing Act Requirements Protect Public Health, Expand Public Right to Know About Water Quality

(02/81) Trenton -- Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced measures to help implement New Jersey's comprehensive Private Well Testing Act that requires sampling of private drinking water wells for contamination whenever a property is sold beginning September 14, 2002.

"New Jersey residents have a right to know that the water they drink is clean and healthy," said Commissioner Campbell. "While we work to protect our water supplies during this record-breaking drought, we are also making significant progress to protect public health by providing better information about our water quality."

DEP set up a web page,, and a toll-free hotline, 1-866-4PW-TEST, so members of the public can get answers to their questions about the new testing requirements. About 12 percent of New Jersey residents receive their drinking water from private wells. It is estimated that 20,000 to 30,000 real-estate transactions per year could trigger the requirements of the new law. A laboratory certified by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in drinking water methods must perform the tests, which are estimated to cost between $450 and $650.

Before closings, both buyer and seller must certify in writing that the tests were performed and that the results were shared with the parties. People will receive their well test results on a standardized form, which will also provide them information about options for correcting a well-contamination problem.

DEP also developed a fact sheet and a set of "frequently asked questions" to explain the requirements of the law and its companion regulations, which take effect September 16, 2002. Other topics covered include the importance of testing drinking water, the potential health risks of contaminated water and possible remedies to improve water quality.

"This pioneering law will result in critical water quality information being provided to residents statewide with private wells that are involved in a real estate transaction along with landlords and their renters," said Commissioner Campbell. "Raising awareness about the importance of regularly testing private wells is an important step towards ensuring a safe drinking water supply for all New Jersey residents."

Under the new law and its companion regulations, well water must be tested for total coliform; nitrates; iron; manganese; pH; lead and all volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) for which maximum contaminant levels have been established by state regulations. These include such substances as benzene and trichloroethylene.

In addition, testing for arsenic must be done in 10 northern and central counties considered high risk, while testing for mercury must be done in nine southern and shore counties. Testing for gross alpha particle activity, including radium, will be phased in 12 counties over an 18-month period. (See attached list of testing requirements for each county. [Not available for the Web version of the release; check the NJDEP PWTA page.])

New Jersey's Safe Drinking Water regulations previously only required new private wells to be tested and only for five contaminants: coliform bacteria, nitrates, iron, manganese and pH, or the alkaline/acid balance, before being placed in service.

Laboratories performing drinking water analyses will be required to submit all sampling data to DEP electronically. The law and regulations require DEP to report all test failures to county health officials, or in some cases, municipal health officials, within five days.

"The testing will provide environmental and health agencies with data about ground water in areas that may require additional investigation," said Commissioner Campbell.

The new well-testing law provides protection to more than just residential homebuyers. By March 14, 2004, landlords who rent out property with drinking water supplied by private wells must test and share the results with their tenants within 30 days of receiving the results. The landlord must also provide the results to each new tenant. Landlords must test every five years.

The department's regulations under the law require that "raw" or untreated water be tested. In other words, if there is a treatment system in place, the water sample must be taken before the water goes through any treatment. This sample represents the condition of the ground water in the aquifer, which may be different than how it comes out a kitchen faucet, for instance. Residents may choose also to have the tap water tested after treatment to assure themselves that the filter or treatment is working effectively.

If pollution is found in the well water, the buyer and the seller are free to negotiate a remedy, if one is desired. While the law does not require that any action be taken, remedies could range from simple, relatively inexpensive solutions to major investments. In some cases, a remedy like a filter may already be in place and no additional action will be needed. Possible sources for assistance include DEP's Environmental Claims Administration, if wells are contaminated by certain hazardous chemical contaminants.



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