Water quality violations hit millions of NJ residents in 2015, report finds
The odds are 50/50 that in 2015 the drinking water in your home flowed from a system that violated a federal law designed to protect public drinking supplies.
Nearly 4.5 million people in New Jersey — or about half the state's population — were served by a community water system that registered a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to a report released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Only three states — Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania — saw more residents affected by violations.
The report points to more than 1,000 violations of the federal law in New Jersey. But just 58 are considered "health-based" violations, such as exceeding maximum contaminant levels and failure to comply with treatment techniques.
Newark Water Department and Bloomfield Water Department were cited for four and three health-based violations in 2015, respectively.
The overall violations tally can include missteps as simple as failing to report findings on time, but also includes failure to comply with testing schedules or failure to report any uncovered problems during testing.
"What our review of EPA data found is that nearly 77 million Americans are served by community water systems that have violations. That represents about 1 in 4 Americans," Erik Olson, co-author of the NRDC report, said during a teleconference with reporters.
Olson said their research also found most of these violations faced no formal enforcement actions.
Responding to the report, the state Department of Environmental Protection said all health-based violations from 2015 have either been rectified or are in the process of doing so.
But the department argues with the report's methodology of determining how many residents are affected by water system issues. Spokesman Larry Hajna said the report presents "mischaracterizations" that "unduly alarm the public."
"I appreciate pushing for public health protection, and we're all on the same page with that, but it doesn't do any good to present this information in a way that's designed to mislead," Hajna said.
Hajna said thousands of tests are performed throughout the year on New Jersey's many water systems. Residents can check results in their area at the department's Drinking WaterWatch page.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.