Well Water Contamination

Well Users

Around 10% of New Jersey residents get their drinking water from private wells. While public water supplies are protected under the State and Federal Safe Drinking Water Acts, private well owners are solely responsible for monitoring the quality of their own well water and for maintaining their own well. In addition, private well owners are responsible for making sure their well is working correctly. In New Jersey, contractors who install private wells must be licensed and follow strict construction standards.

Sources of Contamination

There are many substances that can negatively affect the quality of your well water. Some are found naturally in the environment, while others result from human activities. The most common sources of well water contamination in New Jersey include the following:

  • Infectious microorganisms - Infections microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, are naturally found in human and animal wastes. They can enter your well water from faulty household septic systems or nearby animal feedlots.
  • Lead - Lead was once used in household plumbing materials. Lead pipes and solder can still be found in many older homes. Small amounts of lead are also found in brass faucets and in some well pumps. Lead can enter your well water from household plumbing as water travels from the well to your tap, especially if your water is acidic. Other sources of lead include municipal landfills, industrial facilities, and waste sites.
  • Nitrates - Nitrates often come from the natural breakdown of human and animal wastes. They are also found in chemical fertilizers. Nitrates can enter your well water from faulty household septic systems, nearby farms, and home fertilizer use.

There are many other contaminants that may be found in well water. These pollutants might include inorganic compounds (i.e., mercury), volatile organic compounds, pesticides, and radionuclides. While only traces of these contaminants are normally found in well water, much heavier concentrations may be found on rare occasion (e.g., well in close proximity to a leaking underground storage tank).