DEP Must Quickly Adopt Stricter Standards on PFOA & PFOS

DEP Must Quickly Adopt Stricter Standards on PFOA & PFOS


The New Jersey Sierra Club sent comments to DEP urging adoption of proposed new rules setting strict new standards on PFOA and PFOS in drinking water and groundwater. One rule proposal to amend the New Jersey Drinking Water Act at N.J.A.C. 7:10 establishes a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) of 0.014 micrograms per liter (µg/l) and an MCL for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) of 0.013 µg/l. Another proposal amending the Ground Water Quality Standards at N.J.A.C. 7:9C establishes a specific ground water quality standard for PFOA of 0.014 µg/l and a specific ground water quality standard for PFOS of 0.013 µg/l.

“Today was the last day for public comments on DEP’s stricter standards for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water and groundwater. We have submitted comments urging DEP to adopt these standards as quickly as possible. These harmful chemicals have a major impact on human health. Repeated exposure can lead to developmental defects, liver and kidney problems and even tumors. By adopting a 13ppt standard for PFOS and 14ppt for PFOA, New Jersey would have the toughest standards in the country,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Now that the public comment period is closed, DEP must move quickly to adopt the new rules and protect our communities at risk.

PFOA and PFOS have been commonly used in stain-resistant and non-stick materials, as well as firefighting foam. They are particularly dangerous to humans because they do not leave the body once ingested. Serious health risks from these chemicals include testicular and kidney cancer; liver tissue damage; weakened immune systems and increased cholesterol; and developmental problems like low birth weight, accelerated puberty and skeletal variations.

“More people in New Jersey, about 1.6 million, are exposed to PFOA and PFOS than in any other state.  The chemicals are particularly dangerous because they’re water soluble and cannot be filtered out of drinking water. As they bioaccumulate in a person’s body, they stay there. PFOA and PFOS create significant health problems, including cancers and a weakened immune system. The chemicals have also been found in our fish, even in some of the most pristine areas of the state,” said Tittel.

If adopted by DEP, New Jersey’s new standards for PFOA and PFOS will become the strictest in the nation. That’s vital in New Jersey because more people here are exposed to the chemicals than in any other state, about 20 percent of the population. PFOA and PFOS in drinking water is difficult to remove, furthering public exposure to the chemicals.

“DEP needs to adopt and implement the new rules quickly to protect our communities. About 1 in 5 residents in the state receive tap water containing at least trace amounts of PFOA and PFOS. The EPA detected PFOA levels of at least 20 parts per billion in 14 drinking water systems, including Ridgewood Water, Fair Lawn, Garfield, Wallington and Hawthorne. High levels of PFOA were found in a stream running from a wastewater plant at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst military base to Rancocas Creek. In Salem and Gloucester County, PFOS found near the Solvay site were 7 times over standard,” said Tittel.

The new standards would cover both drinking water and groundwater. That’s an important factor in assuring proper prevention and cleanup of the PFOA and PFOS pollution. The groundwater standards will attack the pollution nearer its source. New rules will also create tougher cleanup standards for polluters.

“DEP moving forward on new standards for groundwater as well as drinking water is critical to controlling pollution from the chemicals. PFOA and PFOS cannot be filtered out of drinking water because they are water soluble. The chemicals have to be cleaned up at their source. Major polluters like DuPont and 3M will also have to abide by the new standards in cleaning up their toxic sites. The Department of Defense will be required to clean up contamination of Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst,” said Tittel.

While new standards of 13ppt for PFOS and 14ppt for PFOA would become the strictest in the nation, the state should go even farther. The New Jersey Sierra Club has urged a 5ppt standard on both chemicals. Federal inaction on the chemicals in our drinking water under President Trump has increased the need for tougher state standards.

“New Jersey needs the toughest standards possible on PFOA and PFOS. They are especially important because the Trump Administration decided not to set a drinking water limit on the harmful chemicals. We are glad to see DEP pushing forward, but we do believe that based on the most up-to-date scientific and health-based research the standards for PFOA and PFOS should each be 5ppt. We also need a combined standard for both PFOA and PFOS of 13 ppt because this is a persistent and pervasive chemical that directly affects human health,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We are thankful that DEP has proposed these new standards. Now they need to quickly adopt them, for our health and our environment.”

Comments on proposed standards for PFOA, PFOS
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