Drinking Water Quality
What is pure water?
Pure water means different things to different people. Homeowners are primarily concerned with domestic water problems related to color, odor, taste, and safety to family health, as well as the cost of soap, detergents, “softening,” or other treatments required for improving the water quality. Chemists and engineers working for industry are concerned with the purity of water as it relates to scale deposition and pipe corrosion. Regulatory agencies are concerned with setting standards to protect public health. Farmers are interested in the effects of irrigation waters on the chemical, physical, and osmotic properties of soils, particularly as they influence crop production; hence, they are concerned with the water’s total mineral content, proportion of sodium, or content of ions “toxic” to plant growth.
One means of establishing and assuring the purity and safety of water is to set a standard for various contaminants. A standard is a definite rule, principle, or measurement which is established by governmental authority. The fact that it has been established by authority makes a standard rigid, official, and legal; but this fact does not necessarily mean that the standard is fair or based on sound scientific knowledge. Where human health data or other scientific data are sparse, standards have some¬times been established on an interim basis until better information becomes available.
The Safe Drinking Water Act sets minimum standards to be met by all public water systems. New Jersey and most other states have established their own drinking water regulations using federal regulations as a basis. State regulations may be more stringent than the federal regulations.
What are the health effects of drinking water contaminants?
Chemicals in drinking water that are toxic may cause either acute or chronic health effects. An acute effect usually follows a large dose of a chemical and occurs almost immediately. Examples of acute health effects are nausea, lung irritation, skin rash, vomiting, dizziness, and, in the extreme, death. For more information, view this page: Health Effects of Drinking Water Contaminants
- What tests do I need for public water systems?
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), all public water systems are required to sample and test their water supplies according to a fixed schedule for all contaminants for which maximum contaminant levels have been set.
- What tests do I need for new wells (non-public water systems)?
Under New Jersey regulations (NJAC 7:10-12.30) and under local authority, a sample of raw water from every proposed nonpublic water system must be tested for bacteria (total coliform), nitrates, iron, manganese and PH.
Additional testing may be required by the local board of health having jurisdiction. New Jersey regulations mention that local authorities may want to require testing for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and/or radon. The local board of health may also require additional treatment of the water.
- What tests do I need for existing home wells?
When buying an existing home with a well, it is advisable and sometimes required that the seller conduct water testing before closing on the house. Many buyers have discovered water-quality problems too late and are burdened with the expense of having to treat their well water or drilling a completely new well. The Farmers Home Administration, Veterans Administration, and Federal Housing Administration all require water testing on home wells before mortgages are issued. Some realtors are also requiring the seller to provide a certificate of water potability for their listings. Recommended tests include bacteria and nitrates.
- Where should I get my water tested?
Amateurs should take water samples only under the direction of a certified state water quality laboratory. There are 2 types of sampling locations depending on the contaminant of interest. For private homeowners and small water systems, these locations may be the same. The sampling locations are point-of-entry (POE) after treatment or in the water distribution system (consumers tap). The purpose of these 2 types of sampling locations is to differentiate between contamination derived from the source water or contamination derived from the distribution pipes.
For more information, visit this page: Water Testing Locations
- What should I do if my drinking water exceeds maximum contaminant level (MCL) or secondary MCL standards?
If a maximum contaminant level (MCL) is exceeded, consult your health department.
MCLs are health-based standards and you may be assuming additional risk if you continue to drink the water. Young children and infants are particularly susceptible. Secondary maximum contaminant level standards are aesthetic.
For more information, visit this page: What to Do When Water Exceeds Standards
- How do I schedule a water test?
To schedule water sample collections and tests from the Cape May County Department of Health, call 609-465-1209.
- What tests are available and what are the costs?
To view a list of water sample tests and how much each test costs, view the following page: Fees for Environmental Services