High Levels of PFAS Found in Salem County – NJ Must Take Action
New data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that the groundwater at the Chambers Works site in Salem County contained 3 PFAS chemicals above health standards. The data was based on samples taken between July and December 2019. PFOA was found at up to 310,000 ppt, PFNA was found as high as 120,000 ppt, and PFOS was found up to 100 ppt. The current drinking water standard for PFOA in New Jersey is 14 ppt and 13 ppt for PFOS.
“This new data is alarming because PFAS at the Chamber Works site were found in concentrations as high as 310,000 ppt. That’s over 22,000 times the current drinking water standard in New Jersey. This is downright scary because people in Salem County have been exposed to these dangerous chemicals for over a year, and they’re just coming out with the information. In New Jersey, almost 1.6 million people are exposed to these toxic chemicals that cause cancer and weaken immune systems,” said Jeff Tittel, DIrector of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We need to hold the EPA and DuPont accountable for cleaning up this toxic site. The DEP needs to make sure that this site is cleaned up to New Jersey’s strict PFAS standards of 14ppt instead of the weak federal standard of 70 ppt.”
The data released by the EPA also found samples of at least 13 types of PFAS chemicals not regulated by New Jersey or the federal government, including GenX. Drinking water standards for chemicals like these should be set by the Drinking Water Quality Institute in New Jersey, but that agency has not met in almost 2 years.
“New Jersey set strict, health-based standards for PFOS and PFOA earlier this year. However, they need to move quickly to set standards for other PFAS chemicals and replacement chemicals like GenX. These chemicals are also considered to be carcinogenic and dangerous to our health, but New Jersey is dragging its feet. The agency responsible for setting these standards, the Drinking Water Quality Institute, has not met in almost two years,” said Tittel. “This new report shows the consequences of DEP’s failure to act when it comes to protecting our water from chemicals. These chemicals have been found in Salem County but we have no regulations for them.”
The Drinking Water Quality Institute is responsible for setting the standards of acceptable limits for toxins and carcinogens in our drinking water. Many of the chemicals they deal with can be linked to birth defects, childhood development problems, cancers, and other serious health complications. The Institute has received awards in the past for the work they have done not only saving thousands of lives, but millions of dollars.
“Governor Murphy committed to having DWQI meet regularly, but it has been over a year and a half since their last meeting. This is irresponsible because, as this new data shows, new chemicals are being found in New Jersey water supplies all the time. Not only were GenX and PFAS found in Salem County, but reports have shown toxins in over 500 water systems in the state,” said Tittel. “In 2010, there were eleven chemicals that DWQI was going to nominate for new standards based on scientific research. We’ve been waiting ten years for these recommendations to come into effect, and there are about 500 chemicals that DEP hasn’t even begun to look at.”
During the previous Administration, Governor Christie froze all rules and standards, including those recommended by the DWQI. For example, he froze and then rescinded the standard for perchlorate. The Institute was also working on standards for PFNA, PFC, chromium, and arsenic, but the DEP at the time failed to act on some of their recommendations. DEP staff also deliberately misled the legislature in Senate hearings under the previous Administration. Now, under the Murphy Administration, the DWQI has only met twice and the last meeting was a year and a half ago in December 2018.
“Given the fact that these new chemicals have been found in New Jersey, we’re concerned that the DWQI hasn’t met in almost two years. The Murphy Administration made a commitment to move forward, but no drinking water standards have been set or amended since 2018. We’ve been waiting for ten years since Christie blocked the creation of standards for chemicals like perchlorates. We can’t continue to wait,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Is the glass half empty or half full? You don’t want to drink it either way because DEP still hasn’t set standards for harmful chemicals in our drinking water.”