• Joseph F. Berenato

Water report is worth reading


The report notes that some people “may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population.” (Courtesy Photo)

HAMMONTON—The town of Hammonton’s Public Utilities Department has released the Annual Drinking Water Quality Report for 2021. The results of the report are from testing conducted throughout 2020.


The text of the report states that it is designed to “inform you about the quality water and services we deliver to you every day.”


“All of our drinking water supply is ground water. We have five (5) active wells, which draw water from the Cohansey-Kirkwood Aquifer System. We have two standing water storage towers with a combined storage capacity of 1.8 million gallons. We also have two underground storage facilities with a combined total of 100,000 gallons,” the report states.


The test includes results from a variety of categories, including radioactive contaminants, namely alpha emitters and combined radium 226 and 228; inorganic contaminants copper, lead and nitrate; disinfection byproducts haloacetic acids and total trihalomethanes; the volatile organic contaminant tetrachloroethylene; the regulated disinfectant chlorine; and unregulated contaminants perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid.


The report notes that some people “may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population.”


“Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers,” the report states.


According to the report, the town is not in violation of any of the safety standards for the above categories. However, the water system did violate a drinking water standard.


“We inadvertently monitored at the wrong time for Volatile Organic Contaminants (VOCs) at one of our treatment plants in 2020. We monitor quarterly. We were required to monitor between April 1st and June 30th for the second quarter, but we inadvertently monitored in July. All sample results from the July monitoring are reflected in ‘Test Results’ table and are in compliance,” the report states.


The report listed regulated volatile organic contaminants in a section of the report.


“Regulated Volatile Organic Contaminants (VOCs)

Benzene; Carbon Tetrachloride; 1,2-Dichlorobenzene; 1,3-Dichlorobenzene; 1,4-Dichlorobenzene; 1,1-Dichloroethane: 1,2 – Dichloroethane; 1,1 – Dichloroethylene; Cis-1,2-dichloroethylene; Trans-1,2-dichloroethylene; Dichloromethane (methylene chloride); 1,2-Dichlorpropane; Ethylbenzene; Methyl tertiary Butyl Ether; Methylene Chloride; Monochlorobenzene; Naphthalene; Styrene; 1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane; Tetrachloroethylene; Toluene; 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene; 1,1,1-Trichloroethane; 1,1,2-Trichloroethane; Trichloroethylene; Vinyl Chloride; Xylenes (total)”


Councilman Steven Furgione, chair of the Water and Sewer Committee, told The Gazette that all testing is done through an outside agency, J.R. Henderson Labs of Beachwood, N.J.


“We do not order it. We give them what is ordered by the DEP [New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection] and the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], and they schedule it—and they missed one of the quarters. We picked it up, and they came back and fixed it,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that the methods currently used to test the water supply differ greatly from those employed several years ago.


“When I started on the Water and Sewer Committee, back in the day—going back six, seven years ago—we would draw the test and get it over to the testing labs. We would draw the sample. We no longer draw the samples. We no longer have anything to do with physically handling the samples. Some tests are required monthly, some tests are required quarterly, some tests are required bi-annually and some tests are required annually. There’s a litany of tests that we have on all of our wells at all different times. They don’t even tell us, ‘Hey, we are coming tomorrow to test your water.’ They show up. They call Mr. [Anthony] DeCicco [Municipal Utilities Superintendent] and say, ‘Open the gate. I’m at Well 4.’ That’s it. We don’t schedule it,” Furgione said.


Additionally, Furgione said, the test results are sent directly from the agency to the DEP.


“Then, we get them afterwards. Mr. DeCicco does not get the test results and then send them to DEP; DEP gets the test results, and then it takes a couple of days for us to get them afterwards. I wanted to establish a way that there was complete oversight and that we were not touching the samples at all,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that J.R. Henderson Labs draws a control sample and several other samples for each test it performs.


“With the control sample, you want to make sure that you have a good baseline. You don’t draw one sample per well; you draw three or four. That’s how they do the testing, to make sure that the baseline is proper, so that we don’t draw one bad sample and all of a sudden we have a bad test. We draw three or four samples, there’s a baseline sample, and then they have the results based on the baseline and their control,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that, because of the number of tests performed and the way the results are relayed to the town, local officials would not have been informed of the missed test until after the second quarter—from April 1 through June 30—had ended.


“They’re here probably twice a month testing for different things. There are different parameters that they’re testing for at different times, and we do not know until after the tests are drawn. When they do the tests, we don’t know what they’re testing for; they tell us to open up the gate, we open up the gate, they do it, the results are sent to DEP and we then get the results from there. Mr. DeCicco keeps track of it, but you don’t pick up on it until after the fact,” Furgione said.


Furgione noted that the agency performs between 100 and 120 tests per year, spread across the town’s five wells.


“What that means is, if they’re coming down to do a VOC—a volatile organic compound—test, it’s five tests. They come down one time, but they’re doing five individual tests: one time per well. Then, all of the results are blended. We had one miss out of 100 to 120 individual tests, which we cleared up,” Furgione said.


The agency, Furgione said, was put “on notice” about the missed test.


“I believe we sent a letter to the DEP, responding to the missed test request, and also to the testing agency saying that they missed one,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that, because the test was performed—although late—it was not an emergent situation about which the public needed to be immediately informed.


“If it was something that was missed entirely, then I would have notified the public. Because we picked it up right away, we didn’t. It was a sample that was missed; it was picked up a couple of days late and we got it fixed,” Furgione said.


Additionally, Furgione said, the town is required to conduct 60 tests, twice each year, for copper and lead at residences.


“The 100 to 120 yearly tests don’t incorporate another 120 of the copper and lead samples; they’re taken town wide. It’s 60 every six months. The testing company picks addresses, it gets mailed to the residents—it’s a little bit different, the residents do it and they have to send them back—we just stay on top of the residents to make sure they do it, and that’s specific for copper and lead,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that lead and copper testing is also regularly performed at the wells; these tests are specific for residences.


“It’s more important to test either at individual residences or businesses because of old pipes. If someone’s got a lead pipe or a copper pipe in their house, and there’s an issue, we need to know about it—more for their protection than for drinking water across the town,” Furgione said.


Under a section of the water report entitled “Lead” the report stated the following:

“Lead: If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. The Town of Hammonton Public Utilities Department is responsible for providing high quality drinking water but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 second to 2 minutes before using water for drinking and cooking. If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water hotline or at http:www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.”


Recently, Furgione said, the number of residential tests required by the DEP for the town of Hammonton has been lowered.


“We were doing that every six months for a couple of years; since there haven’t been any hits, the DEP has now cut that back to 60 once a year ... That’s one of the things that the town as a whole has been doing very well with, and they reduced the amount of times that it needs to be tested town-wide. It’s still the same for the wells and the drinking water, but the individual sites throughout the town has been reduced,” Furgione said.


Hammonton’s drinking water, Furgione said, meets both state and federal drinking standards.


“The federal drinking standards are lower than New Jersey’s standards, so we have to meet both. That’s an important distinction to understand; we don’t just meet the federal. In some states, their limits are based on the federal standards; New Jersey’s is not. They’re much more stringent. Therefore, we meet both; if you meet the state’s, you automatically meet the federal,” Furgione said.


Furgione said that the Annual Drinking Water Quality Report is readily available for the public.

“We make sure that it’s published on Channel 9 and on our website. As soon as we get the yearly report, it goes out for everyone to see,” Furgione said.


The 2021 report—as well as those dating back through 2017—can be found at www.townofhammonton.org/hammonton-water-report-notice.


Gabe Donio contributed to this report.