The Department of Environmental Protection Agency issued Ridgewood Water a violation in May after a test suggested one of its wells contained unacceptable levels of arsenic, but officials for the water company says there's no cause for emergency and in fact, there may have been no problem at all.
Ridgewood Water Business Manager David Scheibner told Patch Friday afternoon that one well located in Glen Rock was found in a March test to have had exceeded the New Jersey maximum contamination level (MCL) of 5 parts per billion (PPB). He explained that the DEP requires quarterly tests and the March test in question was under the federal standard of 10 PPB, though it pushed the average sampling of the past year to 5.75 PPB.
"The previous tests all registered under 5 [PPB]," he said Friday. None of the other 50 other active wells were affected and, as explained by Scheibner, utilities are not in exceedance unless the last four quarterly tests average over the MCL of 5.
"Until this March test, the average was below five. This last test brought the average up a little bit," he said. Schiebner did not immediately have the March test MCL figure, though he stressed it was well below federal standard of 10 PPB.
Ridgewood Water officials say there's no immediate danger to drinking the water at levels recorded and no corrective action needs to be taken, but said in a release that over the course of years, some individuals drinking water containing arsenic above the MCL could experience skin damage, problems with their circulatory system and could be at an increased rate for cancer.
Those with severely compromised immune systems, infants, pregnant, or elderly should consult a health professional about the drinking water, as there could be an increased risk.
However, Schiebner also said Ridgewood Water officials suspect the test that triggered the DEP violation may have been faulty.
The business manager said Ridgewood Water in May did a followup "split test" where one sample is taken and split it up into three sections, one of which is sent to the original lab and the other two to different labs. Scheibner said that those tests sent to other labs registered below the MCL of 5 while the original test again registered over 5.
"It would kind of imply there might be a lab issue but we haven't determined that definitively."
Currently, the one well in question has been shut down and the utility is investigating any possible contamination cause. "If we don't get any more exceedances we will probably put it [the well] back in service," Scheibner said, likely within two months.
Glen Rock customers should not be worried because of the well's proximity, he said. "The system is essentially a web of pipes with scattered entry points," Scheibner said, which makes it "very difficult" to characterize if any particular location would create a hazardous condition for those living close by.
"The DEP has very specific language on violations," Scheibner said. "If it seems alarming to people, it's the way we have to phrase things. There's no emergency."
The information regarding the violation in question has been posted to the Ridgewood Water website and a letter will be sent to all ratepayers next week.
For additional information, contact Steve Florence at (201) 670-5526.