In the early 1900s, New Jersey was an industrial giant. Many people who live in New Jersey have parents and grandparents who worked in factories and plants that were scattered throughout the State. In fact, a sign on a Trenton bridge dating back to that period still proclaims "Trenton Makes - The World Takes."
In those days, companies were unaware of the need to take anything like the kinds of environmental precautions, which today are commonplace. As a result, we are paying the price today and must now cleanup our dirty soils and water.
For the past several decades, the focus of most cleanup efforts has been on the soils, the groundwater and surface water (such as streams, lakes and rivers). Public water supplies have been tested for decades as well, to make sure that customers of public water suppliers were drinking safe water.
But little has been done to ensure that people who get their water from private wells are getting safe, clean drinking water. Now, that is about to change.
Wth the enactment of the Private Well Testing Act, home purchasers and tenants in New Jersey will finally be in a position to learn exactly what it is that they are drinking. Since New Jersey is often a national model in the area of environmental laws and initiatives, this new very important law will have national implications.
This new law will require the testing of drinking water supply wells before many buildings can be sold or leased in New Jersey. All buildings with on site drinking water wells are covered, as are also some buildings that rely on off site wells. Many rental units will also be covered by the Act.
Under the Act, every contract of sale for real property served by a private well that is located on the property, or a well with less than 15 service connections or that does not regularly serve an average of at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days annually, must include a provision that requires, as a condition of sale, that the well water be tested.
Before closing, the buyer and seller must receive and review water sample test results. Furthermore, at closing both parties will certify their receipt and review of this information. These certifications will now become a routine part of many real estate transaction folders. In many cases, Landlords will have to do the same thing for new and existing tenants.
These new home contract and landlord provisions will not become effective for 1½ years following the March 23 passage date of the law. Other provisions are immediately effective. The delay will provide the state DEP (its environmental agency) enough time to hire new employees and prepare to implement the program. This will be a very big job for the DEP.
All of the testing under this law must be conducted by a state certified laboratory. The test results must be submitted to the State's DEP and also to the persons requesting the test.
The new law also contains a data base compilation requirement. Under this provision, the DEP shall compile data accumulated from water test results in a manner that is useful to the department and other government entities. The DEP is also required to provide notice to appropriate local agencies advising that a particular private well has failed a particular test. Those agencies include the County Health Department, health agency or designated health officer.
There is also another provision contained in the Act that is somewhat reminiscent of the Megan's Law (laws that apply to sexual predators) notification provisions. It provides that the DEP will establish criteria for notification that can include, but shall not be limited to, the level of exceedance recommended for notification, as well as the distance or location of properties in a vicinity of a contaminated well for which testing shall be recommended.
Under the new law, the DEP is also required to engage in a public information program. The campaign is to be designed to inform the public of the requirements of the new law, as well as the potential health effects of consuming water from a dirty well.
When the law becomes fully effective, it will have a very large impact on the health and well being of New Jerseyans, and on the manner in which many real estate transactions take place.
And there is very little question about it: other states will surely follow suit.