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Poll: New Jersey’s Drinking Water -- Safe, Scary, or Somewhere in Between?

The state takes a number of precautions to ensure the quality of drinking water, but is it doing enough?

New Jersey was one of the first states to force public water suppliers to test for a wide range of contaminants that were frequently found in drinking water in the 1980s. It even set up a Drinking Water Quality Institute to establish maximum levels for known harmful substances. Problems still persist, however, with some wells closed around the state for pollution, particularly in South Jersey.

Most of the state receives its drinking water from surface water supplies, such as the Raritan and Delaware Rivers, or groundwater from wells, which water purveyors treat before delivering it to homes and businesses. Others rely on private wells where owners are responsible for ensuring their water is safe from contaminants.

All that leads to a key question:

Is New Jersey’s drinking water safe?

  • Yes, the state requires water companies to monitor their supplies for potential contaminants, notify residents when supplies exceed maximum contaminant levels, and to take corrective action if they do.

  • It could be better. Some environmentalists have criticized the state Drinking Water Quality Institute for being too slow to adopt new standards for contaminants showing up in potable water.

  • Not sure. There have been instances where water purveyors have falsified results of their monitoring of supplies and too little enforcement by state and federal environmental officials.

  • I am concerned because of overdevelopment that may adversely affect drinking water supplies in the New Jersey Highlands and the Pinelands, two of the biggest sources of potable water in the state.

  • No. The state is doing too little to protect the supplies it currently relies on, including the potential pollution of the Delaware River from hydraulic fracturing operations in Pennsylvania. The river supplies drinking water to millions of residents in New Jersey.

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