Gary Ziegler, executive director of Wildwood Water Utility, presented a program titled "Providing Drinking Water," to the members of the Rotary Club of Mid Jersey Cape on Jan. 11.

In his presentation, Ziegler referenced a geographical study conducted by two U.S. Geological Survey hydrologists, Pierre Lecombe and Glen Carleton, in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The study was titled "Future Water Supply, 2010-2050," and its purpose was to predict the future of Lower Cape May's drinking water supply given that salt-water intrusion is affecting coastal communities.

Referencing the study's findings, Ziegler said that if no changes are made, the residents of lower Cape May will be drinking salt water by the year 2050.

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The hydrologists, Lecombe and Carleton, based their findings on an understanding that Lower Cape's drinking water flows from two wells that were drilled into the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer in 2003. (The Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer is one of five major aquifers in the New Jersey Coastal Plain Aquifer System.)

However, Lecombe and Carleton may have made a big mistake, or the county may have, Ziegler said. New findings have revealed that the two wells drilled in 2003 may have been drilled into a completely different aquifer.

"Low and behold, after having time to look things over, it seems we were actually drilling into the 800-foot sand aquifer of the Kirkwood Formation, not the The Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer," he said.

"If we did drill into the wrong aquifer - and that is still up for negotiation - than this study is dead wrong," Ziegler said. "Now for the good news, the good news is that this is great news. Maybe we are in a much more permeable zone than we had thought."

If the mistake is proven, the salt-water intrusion to the drinking water of Lower Cape May would be pushed back another 150 to 200 years, he said.

Ziegler said Lecombe and Carleton are in the process of re-evaluating the study.

Nonetheless, he said, the salt is still seeping in and the key to combating it is for the township to be proactive and keep the issue in conversation.

"The more we talk, we more we learn," he said.

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