What’s in NJ tap water? Report says legal limits don’t equal safe
An extensive new report raises questions about legal limits for contaminants in tap water in New Jersey and across the country.
Environmental Working Group said it found 107 contaminants in NJ drinking water after analyzing data for 579 water utilities for 2012 through 2017.
A number of contaminants were found above levels set within EWG's own health guidelines, including hexavalent chromium, found in the water of 202 utilities.
But only two contaminants were found above legal limits in the state's utilities for the five-year span — the radium level at the Buttonwood Mobile Home Park in Bass River Township and the level of total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) by another utility that serves 2,201 people.
"Trihalomethanes are contaminants that form during water treatment with chlorine and other disinfectants. The group includes four chemicals: chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform," as explained by EWG on its website, which also notes the group of chemicals has been flagged as potentially cancer causing.
The organization also noted legal limits for contaminants in tap water have not been updated in almost 20 years.
EWG’s Tap Water Quality Database showed results of tests conducted by each water utility as provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection, as well as federal information from the Environmental Protection Agency EPA.
Aside from the analysis of statewide 2012-17 data, there also is a section of the EWG report that lists "large utilities that accumulated/accrued the most violation points as of April 2016 to March 2019 in New Jersey."
The EPA water quality violation scores take into account federal health-based water quality standards, as well as monitoring, reporting and other drinking water quality requirements. The organization also noted that "violations of health-based drinking water standards receive more points than monitoring and reporting violations - and the length of time until the violations were corrected."
Bloomfield and Newark water departments were the two large utilities in New Jersey to accrue triple-digit violation points, both above 100, for the span from April 2016 to March 2019, primarily due to exceeding the EPA's Lead Action Level in the last five years.
The municipal water departments for New Brunswick, Saddle Brook and Bordentown, as well as the Southeast Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority and Lacey Township Municipal Utilities Authority, all ranked within the EWG report findings as having "violation points" in the 20s range, for the same timespan from April 2016 through March 2019.
New Jersey's largest water utility, New Jersey American Water, posted a response to the EWG Report on its website, which said in part: "Our treatment processes ensure our systems meet or surpass all current EPA and NJ DEP standards for safe drinking water, and we continually sample our water to ensure compliance."
"The compounds listed in the EWG report were reported by New Jersey American Water previously to NJ DEP. Most are disinfectant by products, which result from the disinfection process, and we meet all regulatory standards for these. The remaining compounds are in the source water at levels far below recognized drinking water standards. While we do not specifically treat for these unregulated compounds, their presence is affected by the overall treatment process," according to the statement by NJ American Water.
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