NJ Well Testing Act
1: What does the Private Well Testing Act, N.J.S.A. 58:12A-26 et seq. (PWTA) require?
The Act requires that, when property with certain types of private drinking water wells is sold or rented, the well water
must be tested for contaminants. The results of the water testing must be reviewed by both buyer and seller, or in the case
of a rental, by the renter.
2: What types of properties are subject to the testing requirement?
The Act covers SALES of two types of properties, and RENTALS of other properties. Testing is required for the following:
- SALE of any property that gets its drinking
water from a private well located on the property, and
of any property that gets its drinking water from a well that has less than 15 service connections or that does not regularly
serve an average of at least 25 people daily at least 60 days out of each year.
- RENTAL of any property that gets its drinking water from a private well that isn't required to be tested
under to any other State law.
3: When in the real-estate
sales process does testing have to happen? When the contract is signed? At the closing? What about rentals?
Act requires the following:
- Every contract
of sale for a property subject to the Act must include a provision requiring the testing as a condition of the sale.
- A closing on a property subject to the Act may not occur unless both buyer
and seller have received and reviewed a copy of the water test results, and have signed a paper certifying that they have
received and reviewed a copy of the results.
time a rental property subject to the Act is rented, a written copy of the most recent test results must be given to the renter.
4: When did the testing requirements take effect?
The effective date of the statute was September 14, 2002 for property subject to the Private Well Testing Act. The testing
requirement for rentals of property went into effect March 14, 2004. The Department of Environmental Protection
has always encouraged that well water be tested once a year or in connection with a real estate sale. Well water testing provides
important information about the quality of water that people and their families are drinking.
5: How much
will the testing cost?
The laboratories will set their testing rates, and the rates
will likely vary depending on how hard it is to collect the sample, the location of the property in relation to the lab, and
other factors. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection estimates that the average price will be between $450.00
6: What will happen if the testing is not done? Will the property sale be void?
Testing of your well water is important to your family's health. If testing is not done, you and your family may face
a health risk and not know it. You may also be subject to enforcement action.
7: My property has public water
for drinking, and also an on-site well used only for other purposes such as lawn watering. Does that well have to be tested?
No. Only drinking water wells are subject. See FAQ #2 above to see the types of
8: Does the testing requirement apply to drinking water wells at newly constructed residences?
Yes, if the property is being sold or rented.
9: What contaminants must
the well water be tested for?
That depends on where you live. All wells must be tested
for the following contaminants: total coliform bacteria, iron, manganese, pH, all volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with established
Maximum Contaminant Levels, nitrate, and lead. If total coliform bacteria are detected, a test must also be conducted for
fecal coliform or E. coli. Click here for a table showing all contaminants that must be tested for, listed by county.
10: Who must collect the sample? May I do it myself?
The sample must be collected
by either an employee of a certified drinking water laboratory; or by an authorized representative of a certified laboratory.
See the PWTA rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9E-1.2 for definitions of "certified laboratory" and "authorized representative."
11: May a real estate agent collect water samples for analysis?
real estate agent is a NJ "certified laboratory," as defined at N.J.A.C. 7:9E-1.2, an employee of a NJ certified
laboratory, or an "authorized representative," as defined at N.J.A.C. 7:9E-1.2, the real estate agent may take samples
for all contaminants except for pH. Samples for pH testing must be collected by an employee of a laboratory that is certified
to test for pH, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:9E-2.2.
12 I am a home inspector, and I hear that the PWTA
rules require submittal of Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates for the location of each well. May I offer my customers
GPS coordinate collection service for pay?
Yes. Any person may collect GPS coordinates
to be used by a laboratory in submitting well test results. Laboratories, realtors, home inspectors, and surveyors are examples
of professionals who may choose to offer this service. However, the coordinates must be collected in accordance with the PWTA
rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9E-3.1(a)1xi which refers to the DEP's standard requirements for GPS coordinates, found in the DEP
GIS rules at N.J.A.C. 7:1D, Appendix A.
13: What kind of equipment do I need to meet the Department's
GPS Data collection standards? Does the Department require or recommend certain brands or receiver models?
The Department does not endorse nor recommend certain brands or models for the collection of GPS coordinates. However, only
GPS equipment that can meet the performance criteria of the Department's GIS program is acceptable. A description of the
GPS receiver requirements can be found on the DEP's Private Well Testing Act website. More detailed information on the
Department's GIS program can be found at www.state.nj.us/dep/gis.
14: I'm a reporting lab and want to report GPS data. What are the correct units for reporting GPS? Should
these values contain a decimal point?
Labs should be reporting the coordinates in
New Jersey State Plane (survey) feet, referenced to the NAD83 horizontal datum. A coordinate in this system consists of an
Easting (x) and a Northing (y). Valid values within the state have Eastings ranging from 192,000 to 660,000 and Northings
ranging from 34,000 to 920,000. There is no need for decimals, as these values represent integer feet on the ground. None
of the required GPS receivers (GIS types included) can accurately measure to within a tenth of a foot.
The New Jersey State Plane Coordinate System is not the same as the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) system which also
uses the terms Eastings and Northings. Be certain you are using the correct system.
15: Are latitude
and longitude coordinates allowed when reporting GPS coordinates? What if my GPS unit records in latitude and longitude?
Labs should not be reporting GPS coordinates in latitude and longitude, but rather only
in the NJ State Plane Coordinate System, in survey feet units, referenced to the NAD83 datum (see above question). However,
if latitude & longitude values are read from the GPS receiver's display a conversion is necessary before reporting.
Make sure there are enough decimals when performing the conversion. Here is what is needed for an accurate conversion: Five
(5) decimal places for Decimal Degrees (DD.ddddd) gets a coordinate to within 3 feet; three (3) decimal places for Degrees
Decimal Minutes (DD MM.mmm) gets a coordinate to within 5 feet, and one (1) decimal place for Degrees Minutes Decimal Seconds
(DD MM SS.s) gets a coordinate to within 9 feet.
Caution: If 4 decimal places are used for DD
then the coordinate might be only within 30 ft. Similarly, if 2 decimal places are used for DDM then the coordinate might
be only within 50 ft, if 0 decimal places are used for DMDS then the coordinate might be only within 90 ft.
in other coordinate systems must be converted to New Jersey State Plane coordinates. GPS receivers designed for GIS data collection
have the conversion utilities available in the processing software that comes with the receiver. There are also conversion
utilities (CORPSCON) available on the web.
16: Who pays for the sampling and testing?
When there is a sale of property, the costs will have to be worked out between the buyer and the seller. When property is
rented, the landlord must obtain and pay for the testing and provide the results to the tenant.
in my house does the water sample get collected? What if I have a water softener or other treatment unit installed?
The water sample must be collected on untreated water. If the plumbing in the building has
a water softener, water filter, or other treatment unit installed, the sample must be collected before the water goes through
the unit. If there is no treatment unit installed, the water may be taken from any cold water, non-aerated tap in the building.
18: I had testing done four months ago for other reasons. May I use those test results to comply with the PWTA?
If the sample was collected and tested in accordance with all the requirements of the
PWTA rules at N.J.A.C. 7:9E, the test results may be used to comply with the law for a year after the sample was collected,
except for the coliform results, which may be used for six months after sample collection. Of course, if a new well were installed,
the test results from the old well could not be used. See N.J.A.C. 7:9E3.3 for full details.
19: Can more
than one laboratory be used for the testing?
Yes, as long as all the laboratories
are certified by the NJDEP for testing the particular parameters for which they tested the well water, under N.J.A.C. 7:18.
However, the PWTA rules require at N.J.A.C. 7:9E-3.1(b) that one lab coordinate and submit all the PWTA results to NJDEP electronically.
20: May I test my well for additional parameters not required in the PWTA rules?
Yes. The rules set minimum parameters. Anyone is free to test for more contaminants. If you choose to obtain additional tests,
the DEP recommends using a New Jersey certified laboratory to ensure consistency with the testing done for the purposes of
complying with the Private Well Testing Act.
21: Will the lab tell me if my water is clean?
The laboratory is required to report the test results to the person who requested the test, on a standard form provided by
the NJDEP. The form will show how the well water compares with State and Federal drinking water standards.
22: If the well water does not meet one or more of the drinking water standards, does that mean it's not safe to drink?
Not necessarily. Some of the standards are based on esthetics (secondary), while some
are based on long or short-term health effects (primary). For example, high levels of iron in the water are generally not
dangerous but do give the water an unpleasant taste. So the fact that water tests above the standard for iron would not indicate
that the water is unsafe. Learn more about New Jersey's drinking water standards by clicking here, or the national standards
by clicking here.
23: If the well water does not meet one or more of the drinking water standards, can the
property sale be completed? Does the water have to be treated before the property is sold or rented?
The law does not prohibit the sale of property if the water fails one or more drinking water standards. In fact, the law is
silent on what happens if the water does not meet drinking water standards. The law mainly ensures that all parties to the
real estate deal know the facts about the well water so that they can make well-informed decisions. Of course, it is possible
that mortgage companies or local health departments may require treatment of the water in some cases.
If a well fails to meet one or more of the standards, who will pay to have the water treated?
The law does not require treatment for well water that fails to meet standards. Therefore, if a well owner chooses to treat
the water, they are responsible for paying for treatment, or for obtaining assistance in paying. In some cases DEP or other
government agencies may provide funding assistance for some types of water treatment. The form upon which test results are
reported will include information on any available assistance.
25: If a well fails to meet one or more of
the standards, will DEP make that information public?
No. The laboratory reports test
results to the person who requested the testing, to the DEP, and to the local health authority. Both the DEP and the local
health authority are required to keep the address of tested wells confidential. However, DEP may provide general compilations
of water test results data identified by county and municipality or other appropriate areas.
26: My county
also requires testing of private wells. Which set of regulations do I follow: the county's or State of New Jersey's?
Both the county and state requirements must be met. If there is overlap between the two, the
more stringent of the two regulations will govern.