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Water Testing for Private Wells in New Jersey

Alexis Marootian

ENVL 4300 – Environmental Issues

Dr. Tait Chirenje

Stockton University


Over the years, there has been a rising issue with contaminated water due to
pharmaceutical dumping, metals, excess nutrients and pesticides. These contaminants are
found in the groundwater we drink. They are tested in NJDEP certified laboratories to make
sure they are passing all qualifications. Many parts of New Jersey receive their drinking water
from private wells. The Private Well Testing Act states that private wells are only tested when
homeowners are moving from or renting their property. There has been debates on whether
private owned wells should be tested more often than they are now. Many communities are
unaware of the harmful effects these pollutants have on human health. Most people trust their
water unless there is a reason to expect something harmful. People should be more aware of
the water they are exposed to. These contaminants are primary sources which can be
dangerous and become an even bigger problem in years to come. In the data found in Atlantic
County, New Jersey, primary sources and contaminated groundwater sites are found
throughout the county. Water testing should be done more often to ensure water quality is

With plastic water bottles becoming too expensive and causing harm to the
environment, water filter systems are becoming an uprising demand. Companies like Brita,
have products containing activated carbon that are used on the daily for reducing the common
contaminants mercury, copper, lead, zinc, chlorine and more. This filter system allows users to
maintain hydration all while producing less plastic waste and drinking better tasting water.
Filter systems also question consumers, like myself, about the quality of water we use for life as
we know it. Throughout recent years, changes in water quality have become an issue on the
rise. This is seen so in states such as New Jersey. New Jersey follows a Private Well Testing Act
which mandates buyers and sellers of properties to test the drinkable water quality before the
sale of a home. Tests performed are done by certified laboratories who further send results to
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Table 1. List of Required Parameters for Private Well Testing in Each County

Source: NJDEP (2018a)

Laboratories operate tests for specific water qualifications in the different counties
(seen in table 1). From the data presented above, tests appear sufficient enough to satisfy the
need of the public eye. All concerns of chemical, biological, physical and thermal properties are
met to standards. Tests can run up to hundreds of dollars for local homeowners and businesses.
A simple metal test conducted can cost up to $540 which can be overwhelming for private well

owners to ensure clean, drinkable water (NJDEP, 2018b). If water does not have a funny taste
or appearance, then why is there a need to run further analysis? Residents should not have to
spend the extra cost of running a water analysis unless something appears wrong. Although it
might not appear wrong, there are many harmful contaminants found in groundwater that
appear in private wells. These contaminants, especially primary pollutants are not tested
enough to promote sustainable water.

Table 2. Percentage of Exceedances in Atlantic County, New Jersey

Test Conducted Percentage of Exceedances Source: NJDEP (2018c)

Nitrate 3.2%, (4995 wells sampled)

Iron 24.8%, (4995 wells sampled)
Manganese 12.3% (4995 wells sampled)
Gross Alpha 10.9% (4491 wells sampled)
Mercury 1.7% (4995 wells sampled)
VOC 1.6% (4995 wells sampled)
Fecal coliform or E. coli 0.5% (4995 wells sampled)
pH 93.6% (4995 wells sampled)

From the data found in table 2, Atlantic County has primary and secondary parameters
found in its groundwater. The primary source pollutants that serve harm include nitrates, gross
alpha, mercury, VOC and coliform. These tests should be conducted more regularly than when
homeowners move. In order for these tests to be affordable for private well owners, some
counties offer cheaper options to residents. Atlantic County is an example of this. Atlantic
County Division of Public Health offers a metal test for only $60 (Atlantic County Division of
Public Health, 2019).

Figure 1 represents the contaminated groundwater and pollutants found in Atlantic County.

Source: NJDEP (2019)

According to the data in figure 1, there are contaminated sites, including groundwater
and private wells around the county. Since more than 98% of drinking water comes from
groundwater, people living in Atlantic County are drinking polluted water and not even
realizing. Water testing for private wells should be done more often to prevent an increase in
pollutants found in our water systems.


Atlantic County Division of Public Health. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.atlantic- February 18, 2019.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. (2018a). Retrieved from February 14, 2019.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. (2018b). Retrieved from
8e7. February 15, 2019.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. (2018c). Retrieved from
8e7. Febraury 14, 2019.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. (2019). Retrieved from February 14, 2019.