Version of This Fact Sheet (23 Kb)
For further information, please contact the NJDEP
Site Remediation Program (SRP) at one of the following locations:
For site-specific guidance in northern NJ:
Northern Field Office (973) 669-3960
For site-specific guidance in southern NJ:
Southern Field Office (609) 584-4150
For general information:
Bureau of Community Relations
(609) 984-3081 or
The Task Force report is available on the SRP
Web Page at www.state.nj.us/dep/srp
for home owners, home buyers and other members of the public
With the development of New Jersey's agricultural land, builders, buyers
and sellers are becoming aware of the possible presence of pesticide residues
in former farmland soils. Homebuyers are considering this issue among the
various environmental factors which may affect properties, such as the quality
of drinking water, the presence of lead-based paint and radon gas, and the
integrity of any heating oil tanks. The New Jersey Department of Environmental
Protection (NJDEP) formed a task force to examine this issue and to make
recommendations to assist those involved with properties which may have
contamination due to the historical use of pesticides.
A wide variety of pesticides have been used in New Jersey
over the last 100 years. Arsenic-based pesticides were used extensively
to control agricultural pests in fruit orchards, vegetable fields, golf
courses and turf farms, from the turn of the century until the late 1960s.
DDT and Aldrin were used extensively for a wide range of insect pests
on vegetables and fruits throughout the 1950s and 1960s. These pesticides
tend to bind tightly to the soil, most often in the surface layer and
are persistent in the environment and thus may be present in the soil
long after they have been applied. Breakdown of the products is slow.
As a result, residues of a number of pesticides can be found
in soils at levels that may pose a human health risk when the land changes
from farms to other uses. Arsenic, Lead, DDT and Aldrin (along
with several metabolites or breakdown products) are considered to be the
primary “pesticides of concern” (More information on these substances).
These pesticides were selected based on several factors, including their
extensive agricultural use for many years, their persistence in the environment,
and the fact that they have been detected at elevated concentrations at
various locations in New Jersey.
In addition to levels that may result from past application
of pesticides, arsenic is naturally occurring in soil at levels that can
vary widely throughout the state. Sandy soils tend to have lower concentrations,
while soils with high organic or clay content tend to have higher concentrations
of arsenic. Although some metals such as arsenic can be expected to occur
naturally at elevated levels, man-made compounds such as DDT and Aldrin/Dieldrin
indicate human impacts to the soil.
(NJDEP Unrestricted Soil Cleanup Criteria = 20
parts per million or ppm)
Long-term exposure can cause skin abnormalities, including the
appearance of dark and light spots on the skin, which may ultimately
progress to skin cancer. Arsenic has also been associated with an
increased risk of liver, bladder, kidney and lung cancer.
(NJDEP Unrestricted Soil Cleanup Criteria = 400ppm)
Lead is of particular concern for infants and young children because
it can affect their developing brain and nervous system. High levels
of lead affect the nervous system and kidneys of adults and children.
DDT AND ITS BREAKDOWN PRODUCTS
(NJDEP Unrestricted Cleanup Criteria for DDT = 2ppm,
DDE = 2ppm, DDD = 3ppm)
DDT and its breakdown products are classified as probable human
carcinogens, DDT is suspected of causing liver and pancreatic cancer
in humans. Short-term exposure to high doses of DDT primarily affects
the nervous system.
ALDRIN AND ITS BREAK-DOWN PRODUCT
(NJDEP Unrestricted Cleanup Criteria for Aldrin =
.04pmm, Dieldrin = .042ppm)
In the environment and in the body, Aldrin breaks down rapidly
to Dieldrin. Dieldrin is a probable human carcinogen that causes
liver tumors in test animals.
NJDEP estimates that up to five percent of the state’s acreage
may be impacted. The primary concern has to do with human health impacts
resulting from long-term ingestion of contaminated soil, particularly
- Soil sampling should be conducted when an agricultural property changes
land use (i.e. farmland developed into a housing development or municipal
- Soil sampling should be conducted in former agricul-tural areas intensively
used by children (schools, daycare centers, playgrounds)
- At any time, if a property owner wants NJDEP approval of their investigation,
they would need to conduct a thor-ough environmental evaluation of the
property and should consult NJDEP for guidance.
- Homeowners interested in testing the soil on their own property should
consult the task force report or contact NJDEP for guidance on the sampling
- Several actions can be taken to minimize the chance of contact with
contamination that may be in the soil.
- Keep good grass coverage; this acts as a barrier to contact with
the soil below.
- Cover any disturbed or excavated soil.
- Wash fruits and vegetables from your garden before eating. Uptake
of contaminants into the food is not as much of a concern as possible
ingestion of the soil.
- Wash hands and face after playing outside and before meals and
- Wash toys and pacifiers frequently.
- Mop surfaces where children play.
The costs of remediating a site will vary depending on the level and
distribution of the contamination, the size and layout of the site,
and the remedy (or remedies) chosen. Possible remedies include capping
contaminated areas, blending contaminated soils with clean soils, and
excava-tion of contaminated soils.