Order amid Chaos

North Maple Avenue
Ground Water Contamination,
Toms River, New Jersey

Site update by NJ DEP


In 1993, sampling conducted by the Ocean County Health Department identified five private drinking water (potable) wells along North Maple Avenue that were contaminated with volatile organic compounds at levels exceeding NJ Drinking Water Standards. The primary contaminants were benzene and 1,2-dichloroethane. Two additional homes on Locust Street in Lakewood Township were found to be contaminated, primarily with benzene and 1,1,1-trichloroethane. NJDEP connected the homes to the public water system in 1994. Once that immediate environmental concern was dealt with the site was added to the "Known Contaminated Sites in NJ" list as a site with an unknown source of contamination. These sites are then investigated, as they become a priority for NJDEP. This source investigation was assigned in early 2005.

Recent Events

Summer/Fall 2005 - A resident on Ronda Road found that water from their new replacement potable well had a gas-like odor. This home originally had an 85' well; the replacement well is approximately 135'. Sampling indicated benzene at 125 ppb and 1,2-dichloroethane at 5.5 ppb. Ocean County Health Department contacted nearby well owners and sampled four neighboring wells; no contaminants were found in the other wells.

November/December 2005 - A resident on Fiddlers Run found benzene contamination upon testing their irrigation well and discussed their situation with the Citizens Action Committee on Childhood Cancer Cluster, which notified NJDEP. The resident also was aware of a neighbor having benzene contamination in their well. Those wells showed benzene at 33.8 and 5 ppb respectively.

March 8,2006 - NJDEP mailed letters and questionnaires to approximately 65 area property owners to identify potable wells to sample in April.

April 5,2006 - NJDEP sampled 28 potable and 2 irrigation wells. These properties are located primarily around Stare Road, North Maple Avenue and Route 9. No wells were found to contain contaminants exceeding drinking water standards. Sub-slab soil gas and indoor air samples were taken from two homes (Fiddlers Run and Ronda Road) which had elevated benzene in their wells.

April 7, 2006 - NJDEP mailed letters to approximately 75 area property owners to identify irrigation wells to sample later that month.

April 27 & 28,2006 - NJDEP sampled 36 irrigation wells. These wells are located primarily along North Maple and several roads leading off of it (Donna Dee Court, Fiddlers Run, Crystal Mile Court, Clover Hill Lane). Field screening through the NJDEP laboratory identified fifteen wells with elevated levels of benzene (up to 1086 ppb) and 1,2-dichloroethane (up to 46 ppb). The Ground Water Quality Standards for these substances are 1 and 2ppb respectively.

May 11, 2006 - NJDEP learned of an additional potable well just north of the study area. NJDEP sampled this well, located on Locust Street in Lakewood Township. Benzene was found at 124 ppb (subsequently 75.4). A whole-house water treatment system was installed through the NJDEP Spill Fund. May 15, 2006 - NJDEP collected sub-slab soil gas and indoor air samples were taken from one home on Donna Dee Court.

May 18, 2006 - NJDEP mailed letters to owners of 22 properties on Donna Dee Court and Fiddlers Run recommending they discontinue use of their irrigation wells until further investigation of the ground water can be completed.

May 31, 2006 - NJDEP collected sub-slab soil gas and indoor air samples at 16 homes which had benzene detected in their irrigation or potable wells. The NJDEP Office of Data Quality is currently reviewing the results. June 9, 2006 - NJDEP mailed invitations to June 27th public meeting to approximately 120 residents in the North Maple Avenue area.

Plans for additional work

Receptor Evaluation

  • Delineate shallow ground water conditions in residential study area.

  • Perform additional well and indoor air sampling if necessary to assist with evaluation.

  • Work with NJ Department of Health and Senior Services, Ocean County Health Department, Dover Township and NJDEP Division of Science, Research & Technology to address potential health impacts from irrigation wells so that additional guidance on their use, restrictions or well closure can be provided.

    Source Investigation

  • In addition to investigating a potential source of contamination in the residential area, NJDEP's Bureau of Environmental Measurement and Site Assessment will investigate whether facilities along the Route 9 corridor in Lakewood Township may be the source of the contamination found in the wells along North Maple Avenue.

    A workplan is currently being finalized and discussions for access continuing. Most of this work will utilize a Geoprobe to conduct vertical profiling of the ground water. Field work is expected to begin in July 2006.

    Primary Ground Water Contaminants

    Benzene is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates into the air very quickly and dissolves slightly in water. It is highly flammable and is formed from both natural processes and human activities. Benzene is widely used in the United States; it ranks in the top 20 chemicals for production volume. Some industries use benzene to make other chemicals which are used to make plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers. Benzene is also used to make some types of rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. Benzene is released to air primarily from fumes and exhaust connected with its use in gasoline. Other sources are fumes from its production and use in manufacturing other chemicals. In addition, there are discharges into water from industrial effluents and losses during spills.

    1,2-Dichloroethane, also called ethylenedichloride, is a manufactured chemical that is not found naturally in the environment. It is a clear liquid and has a pleasant smell and sweet taste. The most common use of 1,2-dichloroethane is in the production of vinyl chloride which is used to make a variety of plastic and vinyl products including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, furniture and automobile upholstery, wall coverings, housewares, and automobile parts. It is also used to as a solvent and is added to leaded gasoline to remove lead.

    Naphthalene is a white solid that evaporates easily. Fuels such as petroleum and coal contain naphthalene. It is also called white tar, and tar camphor, and has been used in mothballs and moth flakes. Burning tobacco or wood produces naphthalene. It has a strong, but not unpleasant smell. The major commercial use of naphthalene is in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics. Its major consumer use is in moth repellents and toilet deodorant blocks.

    Xylene is a colorless, sweet-smelling liquid that catches on fire easily. It occurs naturally in petroleum and coal tar. Chemical industries produce xylene from petroleum. It is one of the top 30 chemicals produced in the United States in terms of volume. Xylene is used as a solvent and in the printing, rubber, and leather industries. It is also used as a cleaning agent, a thinner for paint, and in paints and varnishes. It is found in small amounts in airplane fuel and gasoline.

    Contacts for further information

    Mark Herzberg, NJDEP Community Relations (609)633-1369

    Sharon Kubiak, NJDept Health & Senior Services (609)584-5367

    Robert Ingenito, Ocean County Health Department (732)341-9700x7415