Since the early 1980s, investigations by health departments of eight counties in southern New Jersey, by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and subsequently by the US Geological Survey (USGS), have shown that Hg concentrations in water tapped by about 600 domestic wells exceed the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 2 ??g/L. The wells are finished in the areally extensive unconfined Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system of New Jersey's Coastal Plain; background concentrations of Hg in water from this system are < 0.01 ??g/L. Evidence of contributions from point sources of Hg, such as landfills or commercial and industrial hazardous-waste sites, is lacking. During 1996-2003, the USGS collected water samples from 203 domestic, irrigation, observation, and production wells using ultraclean techniques; septage, leach-field effluent, soils, and aquifer sediments also were sampled. Elevated concentrations of NH4, B, Cl, NO3, and Na and presence of surfactants in domestic-well water indicate that septic-system effluent can affect water quality in unsewered residential areas, but neither septage nor effluent appears to be a major Hg source. Detections of hydrogen sulfide in ground water at a residential area indicate localized reducing conditions; undetectable SO4 concentrations in water from other residential areas indicate that reducing conditions, which could be conducive to Hg methylation, may be common locally. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mostly chlorinated solvents, also are found in ground water at the affected areas, but statistically significant associations between presence of Hg and VOCs were absent for most areas evaluated. Hg concentrations are lower in some filtered water samples than in paired unfiltered samples, likely indicating that some Hg is associated with particles or colloids. The source of colloids may be soils, which, when undisturbed, contain higher concentrations of Hg than do disturbed soils and aquifer sediments. Soil disturbance during residential development and inputs from septic systems are hypothesized to mobilize Hg from soils to ground water. ?? Springer 2006.
Additional publication details
Overview of investigations into mercury in ground water, soils, and septage, New Jersey coastal plain