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Review of Selected References and Data sets on Ambient Ground- and Surface-Water Quality in the Metedeconk River, Toms River, and Kettle Creek Basins, New Jersey, 1980-2001

U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4259

Prepared in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

By Robert S. Nicholson, Kathryn Hunchak-Kariouk, and Stephen J. Cauller

View the report in Portable Document Format (PDF) WRIR 03-4259 (888 KB)


Surface water and ground water from unconfined aquifers are the primary sources of drinking water for much of the population, about 391,000, in the Metedeconk River, Toms River, and Kettle Creek watersheds in the New Jersey Coastal Plain. The quality of these sources of drinking water is a concern because they are vulnerable to contamination. Indications of the occurrence, distribution, and likely sources and transport mechanisms of certain contaminants were obtained from 48 selected reports and 2 selected data sets on water quality in or near the watersheds (1980–2001). These indications are described and briefly summarized in this report.

The findings of studies on ground-water quality indicate that shallow ground water within the study area generally meets primary drinking-water standards, with notable exceptions. Volatile organic compounds, mercury, arsenic, radionuclides, nitrate, and coliform bacteria have been detected in shallow ground water in some areas at levels that exceed Federal and State drinking-water standards. For example, results of analyses of untreated samples collected from more than 13,000 private wells during 1983-99 indicated that concentrations of volatile organic compounds in samples from 7.3 percent of the wells exceeded at least 1 of 11 drinking-water standards, according to records maintained by the Ocean County Health Department. In cases of exceedances, however, water treatment, well replacement, and (or) retesting assured that applicable drinking-water standards were being met at the tap. Reported concentrations of the pesticide chlordane in some areas exceeded the drinking-water standard; few data are available on the occurrence of other pesticides. Studies of nearby areas, however, indicate that pesticide concentrations generally could be expected to be below drinking-water standards. The combination of low pH and low dissolved solids in many areas results in shallow ground water that is highly corrosive and, if untreated, able to leach trace elements and release asbestos fibers from plumbing materials.

Reported concentrations of nitrate, volatile organic compounds, trace elements, and pesticides in samples from the monitored mainstem and tributary streams within the study area generally are below maximum contaminant levels for drinking water or below detection limits. Results of studies in other areas indicate that pesticide concentrations in surface water could be considerably higher during high flows soon after the application of pesticides to crops than during low flows. Fecal coliform bacteria counts in streams vary considerably. Concentrations or counts of these classes of surface-water-quality constituents likely are functions of the intensity and type of upstream development. Results of limited monitoring for radionuclide concentrations reported by the Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority of the Metedeconk River indicate that radionuclide concentrations or activities do not exceed maximum contaminant levels for drinking water. As a consequence of organic matter in surface water, the formati ultraviolet absorbance in samples from the Metedeconk River and the Toms River exceeded the alternative compliance criteria for source water (2.0 milligrams per liter for total organic carbon and 0.02 absorbance units-liters per milligram-centimeter for specific ultraviolet absorbance) with respect to treatment requirements for preventing elevated concentrations of disinfection by-products in treated water

Water-quality and treatment issues associated with use of ground and surface water for potable supply in the study area are related to human activities and naturally occurring factors. Additional monitoring and analysis of ground and surface water would be needed to determine conclusively the occurrence and distribution of some contaminants and the relative importance of various potential contaminant sources, transport and attenuation mechanisms, and transport pathways.

Table of Contents

     Purpose and Scope
     Description of Study Area
Selection of References and Data Sets
     Literature Search and Methods
     Data Sets
Regional Water Quality
Ground-Water Quality
     Inorganic Constituents
     Volatile Organic Compounds
     Pesticides and Non-Volatile Organic Compounds
     Pathogen Indicators
Surface-Water Quality
     Inorganic Constituents
     Volatile Organic Compounds
     Pathogen Indicators
     Disinfection By-Product Formation Potential
Summary and Conclusions
References Cited
Appendix 1. History, Migration, Data-Quality Issues, and Statistical Analysis of the Ocean County Water-Quality Database by Steven Tessler, Stephen J. Cauller, and Robert S. Nicholson

Suggested citation:
Nicholson, R.S., Hunchak-Kariouk, Kathryn, and Cauller, S.J., 2003, Review of selected references and data sets on ambient ground- and surface-water quality in the Metedeconk River, Toms River, and Kettle Creek Basins, New Jersey, 1980-2001: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4259, 37 p.

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View the report in Portable Document Format (PDF) WRIR 03-4259 (888 KB)

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