New Jersey Private Well Testing

You may be required by NJ law to test the waters, literally, before you purchase a home with a private well. Read below for more information.

Summary of the NJ Private Well Testing Act
adapted with permission from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), 2008

The Private Well Testing Act (PWTA), which became effective September 14, 2002, requires that certain sale agreements of properties containing private wells, and also some public wells, are mandated to have the well water analyzed for a definitive list of potable water criteria before proceeding with the real estate closing. Both the seller and the buyer are informed of the analysis results before the closing, and both must confirm the fact that the results have been examined. It is mandatory that the well water be tested by a laboratory accredited for the parameters indicated in the Act and for the additional parameters in N.J.A.C.7:9E et seq. Once the sample testing is concluded, a transcript of the results is required to be given to the individual who ordered the water testing on a standardized form and must be electronically submitted to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Specific information about individual water tests, such as results and the address or other location information is confidential as mandated by the PWTA.

What Contaminants Does the Test Cover?
Primary parameters included in the water test:

    • Bacteriological contaminants (E. coli)
    • Organics: all volatile organic compounds with maximum contaminant levels
    • In organics: arsenic, lead, mercury, nitrates
    • Radiological: 49-hour rapid-growth alpha-particle activity. This is testing for particles emitted during the decay of radioactive substances. These include radium, uranium, and thorium. The majority of gross ALPHA activity is from the breakdown of radium.

Secondary parameters included in the water test:

    • PH
    • Iron
    • Manganese

In a PWTA test, the levels of these contaminants are compared with the maximum levels established as safe by the Federal and State drinking water regulations.

Who Is Required to Test and When?
Real estate transfers subject to the PWTA are transactions that involve real property where: 1) a private well is the source of potable water on that property; or 2) the supply of water is from a well that does not serve a daily average of 25 people for at least 60 days out of the year or has less than 15 service connections. Certain public water systems, known as non-community water systems, are defined by the PWTA as meeting the criteria for applicability. The Act requires that only after the water supply has been tested and the parties involved have received and examined the results may the transaction take place. Both the seller and the buyer must attest in writing that they have received and examined the results of the water testing.

Who Is Responsible for the Cost of Testing?
Neither the Act nor the regulations specifies whether the buyer or the seller is financially responsible for the fees for the PWTA testing or possible treatment. Therefore, it is up to the buyer and seller to negotiate who pays for the test.

Who Is Responsible if the Test Shows a Contaminant?
It is up to the buyer and seller to negotiate what actions, if any, will be taken if the test results indicate a contaminant is present in the drinking water supply at a level that exceeds an applicable standard. The PWTA and successive regulations do not mandate treatment of the water supply if any test parameter surpasses the approved level. The NJDEP does, however, provide information with reference to various options for treatment and potential sources of funding (see http://www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply/pw_pwta.html). The PWTA simply serves as a "notice" for the parties involved in the real estate transaction in regards to the potable water quality.

Want to Know More?
A very easy-to-read guide on NJ private well testing:
http://www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/hhazweb/well.pdf

For more detailed information on private well testing:
http://www.state.nj.us/dep/pwta/pwta_report_final.pdf

PWTA document:
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2000/Bills/PL01/40_.PDF