The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has issued a report that shows New Jersey is high risk for corrosive groundwater, which if untreated, can cause lead contamination. Corrosive groundwater can dissolve lead and other metals from pipes in water distribution systems. In New Jersey, there are 964,000 people who dependent on domestic wells. Groundwater wells, unlike the water for public supply are more susceptible to potential corrosivity because it is not generally regulated and often is not treated to control corrosion or metal contamination. (USGS). The results presented in this report are based on two indicators. The Langelier Saturation Index (LSI) says New Jersey’s groundwater wells are potentially corrosive and the Potential to Promote Galvanic Corrosion (PPGC) is reported as High. This report shows a huge threat to our groundwater wells.

“The USGS report is warning that 1 million people in New Jersey who depend on groundwater wells are at high risk for lead contamination. This study shows that our wells are potentially corrosive, which means water can more easily dissolve lead and other metals from pipes in water systems. The problem is these wells are less regulated or treated for corrosion and metal contamination. Corrosivity was the main cause of the public health crisis in Flint, Michigan. Lead exposure in children can cause reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention spans, and other behavioral problems. Without adequately treating this groundwater, these wells threaten human health,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The USGS study shows that what happened in Flint can happen here, but there aresimple solutions we can take to clean-up this contamination. We need to install filters, stop development on septic systems that leach soils containing lead, and add water softener to take acid out of the filters. All people, especially children deserve clean safe water to drink. We just need the DEP to act and help clean-up our water supply wells.”

According to the EPA, corrosion is a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and the plumbing system. Lead can enter the drinking water in many ways including the chemistry of the water (acidity and alkalinity) and the types and amounts of minerals in the water, the amount of lead it comes into contact with, the temperature of the water, the amount of wear in the pipes, how long the water stays in pipes, and the presence of protective scales or coatings inside the plumbing materials.  The source of lead contamination can also occur from atmospheric deposition of pollutants as a significant point source of pollutants.

“This data shows we must prevent lead contamination at its source and treat it to prevent a public health disaster. Lead can be naturally occurring or could be from manmade contamination. This contamination can also be the result of the thousands of contaminated sites that need to be cleaned-up in New Jersey. Some areas like the Ringwood Superfund Site is contaminated because Ford dumped lead based paint sludge and other chemicals that are leaching into the groundwater,” said Jeff Tittel. “Acid rain can cause lead to leach from granite rock and acidic soils can naturally occur like in South Jersey. Atmospheric deposition from acid rain can enter our waterways, and cause lead to leach from iron deposits. Certain chemicals soils from rocks can leach into the groundwater as well.”

According to the report, “The LSI indicator provides an indication of the extent to which calcium carbonate scale might be deposited inside pipes and other components of a distribution system. In the absence of a protective scale, lead, if present, may dissolve into the water (Langelier, 1936; Stumm and Morgan, 1981; Hu and others, 2012). In addition, if scaling does occur, any lead that is present might be sequestered in the scale as lead carbonate (Garrels and Christ, 1965). The LSI only indicates the tendency for scaling to occur; it is not a measurement of corrosivity (Singley and others, 1984).” The other indicator called PPGC measures galvanic corrosion of lead, which is an electrochemical process that can occur when lead pipe or lead solder is in contact with a dissimilar metal such as copper. “If the source water entering a system has a relatively elevated chloride-to-sulfate mass ratio (CSMR), the potential for galvanic corrosion to occur is elevated (Gregory 1985; Edwards and Triantafyllidou, 2007; Hu and others, 2012), especially in water with low values of alkalinity (Nguyen and others, 2011).” (pg. 1-2).



Data on New Jersey from Table 2. (pg. 11)

Population Dependent on Domestic Wells Number of available wells           LSI Number of available wells           PPGC Classification








964,000 542 739 Potentially Corrosive High


Under the Private Well Testing Act (PWTA), New Jersey tests contaminants, including lead, on private wells for drinking water only when the property is sold or leased. Without periodic testing and testing at the tap, well water drinkers could not be aware of contamination. Besides lack of compliance with State and federal Safe Drinking Water Act EPA requirements, the PWTA and Lab Certification rules conflicts with EPA prohibitions on flushing. According to the Private Well Testing Act, NJAC 7:9E-2.3, “before a water sample for lead analysis under this chapter is collected, water shall be flushed through the plumbing system for at least two minutes (until the water changes temperature), in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:18” According to the new NJ Department of Education lead sampling rules, “Samples shall be taken  after water has sat, undisturbed in the school pipes for at least eight hours but no more than 48 hours before the sample is taken.” 

“There is a major defect in the Private Well Testing Act that conflicts with the federal standard when testing for lead and copper. While DEP rules require water to be flushed through the plumbing system for two minutes, EPA says it must not be flushed. EPA’s memorandum recommends water being tested must have stood motionless in the plumbing system for at least six hours. The Department of Education in New Jersey also agrees with EPA that water must sit still in pipes before being tested at least 8 hours,” said Jeff Tittel. “The children of New Jersey should not have been drinking water filled with lead. We need to work to reduce lead in our drinking water and keep the people of New Jersey safe. New Jersey has a Private Well Testing Act that says water for homes on wells has to be tested at the faucet and the well when a home is sold. This must be done without flushing the water. We should also make faucet testing a part of the check-list for selling any home.”

The Department of Health recommends that homeowners can use point-of-use devices to remove lead at the tap to reduce lead contamination, but much more can be done. They also suggest testing at the point of entry devises to reduce corrosiveness. 

“With so many people at risk for contamination, New Jersey needs stricter rules for  testing. We need to make sure that all water sources are being properly tested for lead before ingested. Lead in our drinking water is a serious health problem in New Jersey that we have to deal with and deal with now. We also need to make sure that children can live in lead-free environments and have access to clean drinking water. We need to have swift action to find the source of this lead and protect our children its health effects. We need more testing and better infrastructure throughout the state, and especially in areas with outdated infrastructure. We cannot afford to risk our children by continuing to ignore this dangerous issue. New Jersey needs to start leading on the issue of lead,” said Tittel.

The state of New Jersey hasn’t been fulfilling their obligation to protect drinking water and public health. Christie’s Executive Order 2 calls for no rules stricter than federal standards which would impact the regulation of these compounds in our water.  New Jersey law requires a one in a million drinking water standard for cancer while the federal limit is one in 10,000 to one in 100,000 depending on the chemical. The Christie administration has not adopted any new standards while in office.

“It’s not just lead; we have other contaminates in our drinking water that the Administration isn’t doing anything about. Christie is continuing to put the public of New Jersey’s health at risk by stopping efforts to protect our drinking water. The DEP’s failure to update standards to protect public health has made this problem of contaminated drinking water worse. The Drinking Water Quality Institute has barely met in the last six years. The Science Advisory Board has been stacked with polluters, including DuPont. Since they have not made any recommendations in five years, the DEP has not adopted any standards,” said Jeff Tittel. “The state has failed to update the 20-year-old Water Supply Master Plan, which determines water availability as well as water quality issues. The Christie Administration has rolled back protections re-written rules for stormwater management, water quality management planning, flood hazard areas, and more.”

The Water Supply Master Plan was last updated in 1995 meaning we have not recalculated save yields for streams, reservoirs or groundwater since then. The Christie Administration’s proposed rollbacks to other rules would also allow for more development in environmentally sensitive areas, increasing pollution and flooding.

“As the Christie Administration continues to decrease protections for our water we are seeing problems arise all over the state, especially with lead in the drinking water. This report shows we need to take immediate action to prevent lead contamination. Our drinking water infrastructure is a $8 billion problem. The DEP has not adopted any standards so this means people are drinking water with higher levels of hazardous or toxic chemicals,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Communities struggle to get the lead out of their water, the Administration continues to work towards reducing clean water protections. The polluters end up saving money and real people get affected by toxic chemicals in their water supply. The DEP should be doing their job to protect public health by setting standards. By not doing so, they are putting the public’s health at risk.”