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Important Facts for Tetrachloroethylene in Community Drinking Water Systems


The distribution of tetrachloroethylene in drinking water by community water system, population served, and year


The distribution of tetrachloroethylene in drinking water by community water system, population served, and year


Not applicable

Why Is This Important?

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) is a colorless liquid widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics, and often referred to as "dry-cleaning fluid". In addition, it is used to degrease metal parts in the automotive and other metalworking industries and is found in paint stripping products and spot removers. Tetrachloroethene is a common soil contaminant and is highly mobile in groundwater. It has been estimated that 85-90% of tetrachloroethylene produced is released into the air and 10% into water, with the remainder ending up in soil and biota. Tetrachloroethylene has been found in 38% of 9,232 surface water sampling sites throughout the United States. The estimated amount that most people might drink in water ranges from 0.0001 to 0.002 milligrams per day. Long term exposure in drinking water above the MCL (5 μg/L) can cause adverse effects to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Prolonged dermal exposure can cause irritation, dryness, and dermatitis. Scientific evidence shows PCE may cause cancer from prolonged exposure even at levels below the federal MCL. The US EPA classifies PCE as a probable human carcinogen.

How Are We Doing?

In order to determine the quality of water provided by community water supplies in New Jersey, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) require mandatory, regular monitoring of treated water delivered to the public. Test results are compared to standards for drinking water quality called maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), the maximum permissible level of a contaminant in public drinking water based on information on health effects, treatment, analytical methods and contaminant occurrence. A complete list of the regulated contaminants and the maximum permissible concentrations allowed in drinking water are listed on NJDEP's website at: [] Recent estimates have shown that over 0.3 percent of people served by community water systems nationwide receive water with PCE concentrations at or above the MCL (5 ug/L). Over 5% of the population served by community water systems nationwide receive water with a PCE concentration exceeding the estimated quantitation level of 0.5 ug/L. In New Jersey between 2010 and 2020, no annual mean PCE concentrations throughout New Jersey's water systems exceeded the federal MCL. Between 2010 and 2020, there were less than 10 instances wherein community water systems reported the maximum PCE concentration exceeded the federal standard.

What Is Being Done?

Public water suppliers are required by law to monitor for regulated contaminants based on type of water system and water source, and ensure the water meets state and federal Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). The test results are sent to the NJDEP. If the level of any regulated contaminant is above the MCL, additional samples are taken to confirm that a problem exists. The supplier of that water is then required to eliminate the problem by changing to another water source or by improving water treatment. The NJDEP inspects community drinking water systems and evaluates their monitoring reports for compliance with the standards. Noncompliance with a standard can result in a violation. NJDEP works with systems to ensure they notify the public and return to compliance. The U.S. EPA has set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for tetrachloroethylene in drinking water at 0.005 milligrams per liter (0.005 mg/L) or 5 parts of PCE per billion parts water. New Jersey has set the MCL lower (0.001 mg/l) for water systems throughout the state.
The information provided above is from the Department of Health's NJSHAD web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Tue, 23 April 2024 13:43:53 from Department of Health, New Jersey State Health Assessment Data Web site: ".

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