Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards
Ground Water Quality Standards (GWQS) N.J.A.C. 7:9C
"Protecting, Maintaining, and Restoring New Jersey Ground Waters"
The Ground Water Cycle
The GWQS establish classes of ground water according to the hydrogeologic characteristics of the ground water resource and the designated use(s) to be maintained, restored and enhanced within each classification area. Designated uses include maintenance of special ecological resources, provision of and conversion to potable water (drinking water), agricultural and industrial water supply, and other reasonable uses. Click on the Ground Water Classifications bar to learn more.
The GWQS also establish the water quality criteria and antidegradation policies applicable to each ground water classification and designed to ensure that the designated uses can be adequately protected. The GWQS are not self-executing. They are implemented primarily through the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) discharge to ground water permit program and the Site Remediation Program. The actual ground water classification, criteria, and GWQS that apply to a proposed activity (e.g., new/expanded discharge to ground water or remediation of a contaminated site) are determined on a case-by-case, site-specific basis pursuant to the applicable regulatory program.
The GWQS establish three major classes of ground water: Class I Ground Water of Special Ecological Significance, Class II Ground Water for Potable Water Supply, and Class III Ground Water with Uses Other Than Potable Water Supply. The GWQS establish the ground water quality criteria that are applicable to the different classes of ground water.
Class I Ground Water of Special Ecological Significance: Class I includes ground water within watersheds of FW1 surface waters, State-owned Natural Areas, and the major aquifers of the Pinelands Area. The primary designated use for Class I ground water is the maintenance of special ecological resources. Secondary uses include potable, agricultural and industrial water. All Class I ground waters are "nondegradation" waters. The Class I ground water quality criterion is "natural quality" in Class I-A and Class I-PL (Pinelands Preservation Area) ground waters, and "background water quality" for Class I-PL (Pinelands Protection Area) ground water. These terms are defined at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.4.
Class II Ground Water for Potable Water Supply: Class II ground water includes all areas not designated as Class I or Class III. The primary designated use for Class II ground water is provision of potable ground waters with conventional treatment at current water quality (Class II-A) or after enhancement or restoration of regional water quality (Class II-B). The ground water quality criteria for all Class II ground waters are health-based concentrations of constituents above which would pose an unacceptable risk for human consumption as drinking water. Click on the bar below for tables showing the current ground water quality criteria, PQLs and constituent standards for Class II ground water.
Class III Ground Water With Uses Other Than Water Supply: Class III ground waters are not suitable for potable supplies due to natural hydrogeologic characteristics or natural water quality. The primary use of Class III-A ground water is release or transmittal to adjacent ground or surface waters, Class III-B ground water are designated for any reasonable use at existing water quality, other than potable water. The GWQS establish narrative descriptions of these classifications and their corresponding criteria, which are determined by the Department on site-specific, case-by-case basis.
Maps are available in the Appendix of the GWQS (Figures 1-5) that identify the geographic boundaries of Class I-PL, Class III-A and Class III-B ground water. These maps are in the process of being digitized as future coverages for New Jersey's Geographic Information System.
The ground water quality criteria for Class II ground water are numeric, health-based concentrations or levels of constituents (pollutants) that, when exceeded, pose an unacceptable human health risk from exposure through consumption of potable water supplies (drinking water). These criteria are derived to protect public health without consideration of analytical feasibility, treatability, or cost. The health-based criteria reflect the most recent toxicological information to ensure adequate protection of human health. The ground water quality standard (constituent standard) implemented by the Department’s regulatory programs is the higher of the health-based criterion and the corresponding PQL for each constituent. The PQL represents the lowest concentration of a constituent that can be reliably achieved among laboratories within specified limits of precision and accuracy during routine laboratory operating conditions (i.e., the lowest quantifiable concentration). There are three types of ground water quality criteria for constituents in Class II ground water:
Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria: These health-based criteria are either the health-based levels used to establish maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for the same constituents through amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act rules at N.J.A.C. 7:10 or, for constituents without promulgated MCLs, derived in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7(c)2-4 using the best available science (e.g. weight of evidence, lifetime risk, consumption, toxicity, etc.) to ensure adequate protection of human health from exposure to contaminants through consumption of drinking water. Specific ground water quality criteria are listed in Appendix Table 1 of the GWQS, as shown below.
Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria: N.J.A.C 7:9C-1.7(c)2 allows the Department to establish interim specific ground water quality criteria prior to the adoption of specific criteria for Class II constituents that are not listed in Appendix Table 1. Interim specific criteria are derived the same way as specific criteria; however, interim specific criteria become effective when they are listed in the "Table of Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria (ISGWQC), Interim PQLs (IPQLs), and Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Standards (ISGWQS) for Constituents in Class II-A Ground Water", as shown below.
Interim generic ground water quality criteria apply to all synthetic organic chemicals (SOCs) that are not listed in Appendix Table 1 and for which the Department has not established an interim specific GWQS. The numeric interim generic ground water criterion applicable to a specific constituent is based on carcinogenicity and serves as the GWQS for that constituent unless an applicable PQL is approved by the Department in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.9(c)3. Interim generic criteria are listed in Appendix Table 2 of the GWQS, as shown below.
New or revised specific ground water quality criteria, practical quantitation levels (PQLs), and specific ground water quality standards (constituent standards) are established through rulemaking or, under certain circumstances, through a Notice of Administrative Change to the rules, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7(c)5. Click on the "Current Rules" bar to learn more.
The tables shown below are provided as a courtesy. Please refer to the official version of the GWQS for the most accurate information about the ground water quality criteria, PQLs, and constituent standards currently in effect. Instructions on obtaining official versions of Department rules are available on the Department's website.
Table of Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria (ISGWQC) and Interim PQLs for Constituents in Class II-A Ground Water Interim specific ground water quality criteria and interim PQLs are expressed in micrograms per liter (μg/L), which is equivalent to parts per billion (ppb)
Constituent Standard=Higher of Interim PQL and ISGWQC
Technical Support Documents
Chloroperfluoropolyether carboxylates (ClPFPECAs)
220182-27-4 - Ethyl ester, hydrolyzed
220207-15-8 - Ethyl ester, hydrolyzed, sodium salt
CASRN = Chemical Abstracts System Registration Number
ISGWC = Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criterion
* According to the GWQS at N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7(c)4iii, the criterion, derived as 0.0019 µg/L, has been rounded to one significant figure. The criterion and enforceable standard apply to the total concentration of ClPFPECAs detected in ground water.
Note: Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.9(c)1, interim Practical Quantitation Levels (PQLs) are derived for constituents with interim specific criteria as appropriate, in accordance with the approaches specified in 7:9C-1.9. Analytical reference standards that have been validated by an independent third party are needed for PQL development, but such validation has not yet been performed for ClPFPECAs. As a result, a PQL cannot be developed for ClPFPECAs at this time. Solvay Specialty Polymers U.S.A. has submitted information to NJDEP on an analytical method for ClPFPECAs from a commercial laboratory to which Solvay provided analytical standards of ClPFPECAs. Information provided by Solvay to NJDEP about the analytical method developed by this commercial laboratory, as well as data from research studies conducted by NJDEP and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), indicate that CIPFPECA congeners may be quantitated to 1 nanogram per liter (ng/L) in ground water. Based upon this information, it is anticipated that laboratories will be able to quantitate ClPFPECAs to below the ISGWQS of 2 ng/L.
Appendix Table 1: Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria, PQLs and Constituent Standards for Class II Ground Water Specific ground water quality criteria and PQLs are expressed in micrograms per liter (μg/L), which is equivalent to parts per billion (ppb), unless otherwise noted. Table 1 criteria are all maximum values unless clearly indicated as a range for which the minimum value is to the left and the maximum value is to the right.
Specific Ground Water Quality Criterion
Practical Quantitation Level (PQL)
Constituent Standard=Higher of Interim PQL Ground Water Quality Criterion
PQL = Practical quantitation level as defined in N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.4
CASRN = Chemical Abstracts System Registration Number
NA = not available for this constituent.
a = Asbestos criterion is measured in terms of fibers/liter longer than 10 micrometers (f/L > 10 µm)
CU = Standard Cobalt Units
b = Threshold Odor Number
(Total) means the concentration of metal in an unfiltered sample following treatment with hot dilute mineral acid (as defined in "Methods for Chemical Analysis of Water & Wastes", USEPA-600/4-79-020, March 1979) or other digestion defined by the analytical method. However samples that contain less than 1 nephelometric turbidity unit (NTU) and are properly preserved, may be directly analyzed without digestion.
m = Pursuant to prevailing Safe Drinking Water Act rules, any positive result for fecal coliform is in violation of the MCL and is therefore an exceedance of the ground water quality criterion.
Appendix Table 2: Interim Generic Ground Water Quality Criteria (IGGWQC)
for Synthetic Organic Chemicals (SOCs)** in Class II Ground Water
SOCs defined as carcinogens in N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.4
lacking specific or interim specific criteria
5 μg/l each
25 μg/l total
SOCs defined as non-carcinogens in N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.4
lacking specific or interim specific criteria
100 μg/l each 500 μg/l total
**Synthetic Organic Chemicals (SOCs) are identified as having "evidence of carcinogenicity" or "lacking evidence of carcinogenicity" based upon available scientific evidence. Chemicals are classified as carcinogens or noncarcinogens for the purposes of risk assessment according to the weight of evidence utilized by USEPA in the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (50 FR 46880-46901 (1985)). The Interim generic ground water quality criteria do not apply to naturally occurring organic chemicals.
The Department has developed an electronic compendium of standards for water and soil promulgated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Included are Surface Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:9B; Ground Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:9C; Drinking Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:10; and soil remediation standards from the Remediation Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:26D. The compendium includes the standards and information about the basis for the standards contained in the above referenced rules. The standards in these rules are used by the Department's regulatory programs to establish site-specific requirements in accordance with the appropriate regulations. Please refer to the official versions of these rules for the most accurate information about the standards currently in effect and how they are administered by the Department. Instructions on obtaining official versions of Department rules are available on the Department's website at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/legal/get_rule.htm.
The GWQS are amended from time to time to incorporate changes in policy, procedure, standards, or other provisions, or because the rules are about to expire and must be readopted pursuant to the New Jersey Administrative Procedure Act (NJAPA) at N.J.S.A. 52:14B-1 et seq.
The current GWQS (N.J.A.C. 7:9C) were readopted without change on March 1, 2021 to avoid expiration, thus readopting the rule for another seven-year period. Prior to their 2021 readoption, the GWQS were amended in August 2018 through Notice of Administrative Change, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7(c)3 and 5, and in June 2020 through rulemaking. These and prior proposed and adopted amendments to the GWQS from 1992 through the present, and their corresponding basis and background documents, are available on the Technical Support Documents web page.
Before amendments to the GWQS can be adopted through rulemaking, opportunities for public review and comment, including a public hearing, are provided as required under the NJAPA. An informal stakeholder process may be convened prior to rulemaking. The Department has been working with stakeholders to inform future amendments to the GWQS. Key issues identified for future amendments include criteria and PQL updates, refinement of the classification area boundaries and mapping, and refinement of the designated uses for some ground water classifications. Learn more about the Ground Water Quality Standards Rules Stakeholder Process.
For more information, please contact Kimberly Cenno, Bureau Chief, Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards at (609) 633-1441.