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Important Facts for Trichloroethylene in Community Drinking Water Systems


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


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


Not applicable

Why Is This Important?

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a chemical used primarily as an industrial degreaser and solvent. It is a nonflammable colorless liquid with a sweet odor similar to ether or chloroform. Drinking or breathing high levels of trichloroethylene may cause nervous system effects, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma, and possibly death. Inhalation is the most common exposure route. Volatilization from contaminated water (e.g., while showering) as well as the use of household products containing this solvent can result in indoor concentrations that are elevated above outdoor air concentrations. Because of its moderate water solubility, trichloroethylene in soil has the potential to migrate into groundwater, primarily from leaching from waste disposal sites. The Federal Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) has reported that trichloroethylene is the most frequently reported organic contaminant in groundwater. ATSDR estimates that between 9 and 34 percent of drinking water supply sources have some trichloroethylene contamination but that most municipal water supplies are in compliance with the federal maximum contaminant level of 5 g/L.

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: [] In New Jersey between 2010 and 2019, the mean TCE concentration across all community water systems did not exceed the federal MCL of 5 parts per billion and rarely exceeded the state MCL of 1 part per billion.

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 trichloroethylene in drinking water at 0.005 milligrams per liter (0.005 mg/L) or 5 parts of TCE per billion parts water. New Jersey has set the MCL lower (0.001 mg/l) for community 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 Sat, 11 July 2020 20:19:19 from Department of Health, New Jersey State Health Assessment Data Web site: ".

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