December 30, 2005 Borough of Hopewell/Water System ID#: 1105001
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR DRINKING WATER
Seventh Notice to include current information provided in accordance with National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR), Subpart Q, Section 141.201 et seq.
Borough of Hopewell Water Department Has Levels of Radionuclides
Above the Federal Drinking Water Standards
Based on recent test results, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has advised us that our water system is in violation of a drinking water standard. This is not an emergency situation or condition. The purpose of this notice is to inform you of the test results, explain what happened, advise you of what to do, and tell you what we are doing to correct this situation. Additionally, we have provided background information to assist you in understanding the circumstances underlying this water quality issue. Please be assured that the Borough is making every effort to ensure that the quality of your water is maintained at the highest possible level.
The Hopewell Borough Water Department routinely collects water samples from our water supply for laboratory analysis, to monitor for the possible presence of drinking water contaminants. These test results are submitted to the NJDEP Bureau of Safe Drinking Water for review, as required under state and federal drinking water regulations. Based on previous sampling results, the Borough was required by the NJDEP to perform quarterly sampling for radioactive elements (Radionuclides) in order to determine compliance with the applicable maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). Accordingly, the Borough began a quarterly sampling program on June 13, 2003, and completed the fourth quarterly sampling event on February 24, 2004.
The average testing results received from the laboratory on May 5, 2004 show that our system exceeds the MCLs for Radionuclides, specifically gross Alpha particle activity, combined Radium 226 and 228, and Uranium. The MCLs for gross Alpha particle activity, combined Radium 226 and 228, and Uranium are 15 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), 5 pCi/L, and 30 micrograms per liter (ug/L) respectively. The average of four quarterly results for gross Alpha particle activity, Combined Radium 226 and 228, and Uranium were 20 pCi/L, 5.6 pCi/L, and 39 ug/L respectively. Samples were subsequently taken on May 24, 2004, August 4, 2004, November 28, 2004, February 8, 2005, April 25, 2005, July 19, 2005 and October 12, 2005. The chart below depicts testing results from those samples:
What Should I Do?
The NJDEP has advised us that you do not need to change your drinking water intake or habits. There are no recommendation or suggested directives to use bottled water or an alternative water supply. However, if you have specific health concerns, we strongly suggest that you seek the advice and consultation of your physician.
What Does This Mean?
The NJDEP has advised us that this is not an immediate health risk. (If it had been, an emergency plan would have been implemented and you would have been notified immediately.) However, some people who drink water that contains radionuclides in excess of the MCL over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer. (The MCLs are based the assumption that each individual consumes 2 liters of water per day for a period of 70 years.)
The available evidence suggests that the radionuclides detected in the Hopewell Borough water supply are derived from natural (background) sources. Most of the common rock types found in New Jersey (and elsewhere) contain trace amounts of radioactive isotopes of uranium and thorium. As these rocks weather (break down), the resulting clays and other aquifer-forming materials may become a sources of naturally-occurring radionuclides to drinking water sources. For example, trace amounts of long-lived isotopes (e.g., uranium-238, which has a half-life of almost five billion years) have been present in earth’s crust since the crust first formed. As these long-lived trace radionuclides decay, shorter-lived (more radioactive) daughter products are formed. Of particular concern are naturally occurring uranium and the naturally occurring radium isotopes, radium-226 and radium-228, which have been observed to accumulate to levels of concern in drinking water sources. Most of the naturally occurring radionuclides are Alpha-particle emitters (e.g., the uranium isotopes and radium-226).
On December 8, 2003, a new federal regulation (known as the Radionuclide Rule) took effect, requiring community water supplies to monitor for radionuclides at each point of entry into the water system (i.e., at the wellhead). These regulations also established a new nationwide standard (MCL) for uranium (which was not previously regulated). Under the new regulations, community water systems are required to collect point-of-entry water samples for analysis of radionuclides on a quarterly basis, beginning in January 2004. Compliance is then evaluated at each point of entry, based on the average of the four quarterly sampling results.
Prior to the new regulations, water supply operators were not required to test for radionuclides at every entry point, but rather at a “representative point to the distribution system” such as a centrally located residence or business (known as “point of use” sampling). Under a previous, statewide monitoring program implemented by the NJDEP, the Borough conducted point-of-use sampling for radionuclides at a central location within the Borough during the period from July 2000 through June 2004. The results for gross Alpha activity and Combined Radium 226/228 in these samples were below the applicable MCLs.
However, somewhat higher results were obtained from a point-of-use sample collected by the NJDEP on March 25, 2003, at a different location within the Borough. In a letter to the Borough dated May 5, 2003, the NJDEP reported that result for gross Alpha activity was at (but not above) the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 15 pCi/L. This result was higher than those previously obtained from point-of-use samples elsewhere in the Borough, which suggested a relatively high degree of system-wide variability in radionuclide concentrations. In May 2003, the Borough received notification from the NJDEP that four (4) quarterly samples should be taken from each point of entry (each well facility), with those samples analyzed for total gross Alpha, total uranium, radium 224, radium 226, and radium 228.
Accordingly, the Borough began quarterly point-of entry sampling on June 13, 2003 (six months ahead of the schedule required by under new Radionuclide Rule). Samples were collected at two locations during each sampling event: (1) at Well No. 4, which is located at the corner of Louellen Street and Model Avenue and (2) at the Burton Avenue facility, which draws water from wells No. 2 and No. 5. The results obtained at Well No. 4 were all below the applicable MCLs. However, the average results obtained at the Burton Avenue Facility exceeded MCLs described in the first part of this letter, including the new MCL for total Uranium. (The analytical results reported above pertain to the samples collected at the Burton Avenue facility.)
Upon receipt of the fourth quarter laboratory analytical results the Borough notified the NJDEP of the findings. In response, NJDEP required that the Borough formally notify the public of the circumstances of the MCL violation (which is the intended purpose in this letter).
It is important to note that the federal Radionuclide Rule requirements did not take effect until December 8, 2003. The Borough initiated sampling six months before the rule took effect in order to identify and mitigate any potential concerns.
What is Being Done?
The Borough is actively working to remediate its current water quality situation so that potable water supplied by the Hopewell Water Department is compliant with MCLs for Radionuclides.
For more than a year, the Borough has planned and prepared for the installation of an interconnection with the NJ American Water (NJAW) system, which, when completed, will enable us to purchase supplemental water to meet our system demand when the wells testing in excess of the MCLs for Radionuclides are taken off line. Establishing this interconnection is our top priority, as it will allow us to bring our water system into compliance within the shortest possible timeframe. Once the interconnection is in place and the compliance issues are assured, the Borough can continue to focus on permanent, long-term solutions. Construction on the interconnection began in late fall 2005, and is now targeted for completion in January 2006 (approximately one month behind the original target date due to weather conditions and material delivery delays).
Once the interconnection has been established, the Burton Avenue wells will be taken off-line until such time as a treatment system can be installed, or a decision is made to abandon the wells. The interconnection will be of value in either scenario, as it will, at minimum, provide a back-up supply of water in the event of an emergency, drought conditions, or a mechanical problem at one of the Borough’s pumping stations. As has been previously corresponded, Well No. 4, which is in compliance with all current regulations, will remain in operation.
Going forward, the Borough Council will continue to commit necessary funds to examine long term planning and management of the water utility. These funds will be used to hire professionals to assist the Borough in identifying the most cost-effective options for preserving and maintaining a safe, reliable water supply. Some options that are under consideration include the installation of treatment systems at the Burton Avenue Wells and (or) Well No. 6 (currently off-line because of naturally occurring arsenic) and (or) installation of one or more new wells. Of course, continued testing will dictate the course of any future action. We will keep you informed of the testing results and any plans regarding the future management of the water supply.
Who Should I Call for More Information?
At any time, please feel free to contact David Misiolek, Director of Hopewell Borough Water Department at 609-466-0168 or Michele Hovan, Borough Administrator/Clerk at 609-466-2636. You may also contact Matt Maffei, the Regional Manager for the Hopewell area at the NJDEP Bureau of Safe Drinking Water at (609) 292-5550. Additional information about radionuclides and the Radionuclide Rule is available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) website: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/radionuc.html.
Again, please be assured that we are working to resolve these concerns within the shortest possible time frame. The health, safety and welfare of the residents of Hopewell Borough are our highest priorities. Please feel free to contact us with any additional questions or concerns you may have.
David Misiolek, Director of Water & Sewers
Michele Hovan, Borough Administrator/Clerk
David Mackie, Borough Council