- 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.
- 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,
- SALE 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.
- When in the real-estate sales process does testing have to happen? When the contract is signed? At the closing? What about rentals?
The Act requires the following:
- Every for a property subject to the Act must include a provision requiring the testing as a condition of the sale.
- A 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.
- Every time a rental property subject to the Act is , a written copy of the most recent test results must be given to the renter.
- When do the testing requirements take effect?
According to the Attorney General’s interpretation of the statute, all sales contracts executed on or after the effective date of the statute, September 14, 2002 for property subject to the Private Well Testing Act are required to meet the testing requirements. Testing is not required for real estate transactions that are already under contract when the statute goes into effect. The testing requirement for rentals of property must be completed by March 14, 2004, and at least once every five years thereafter. However, please note that while testing is not required under the law for real estate transactions under contract prior to September 14, 2002, 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.
- 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 and $650.00.
- What if I signed a sales contract before September 14, 2002, but my closing will be after September 14, 2002? Does the testing requirement apply?
According to the Attorney General’s interpretation of the statute, the testing requirement would not apply. (See answer to Question 4).
- 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.
- 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 wells affected.
- Does the testing requirement apply to drinking water wells at newly constructed residences?
Yes, if the property is being sold or rented.
- 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.
- 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.”
- May a real estate agent collect water samples for analysis?
If a 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Caution: 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.
- 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.
Coordinates 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.
- Where can I find a list of New Jersey certified drinking water labs?
Click here for a list of certified drinking water laboratories that handle PWTA testing.
- 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.
- Where 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. (click here to see the reporting form). The form will show how the well water compares with State and Federal drinking water standards. For a description of the different types of drinking water standards, click here.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.