Sierra Club: DEP adopts strictest standard for PFOAs and PFAs in the nation

DEP adopts strictest standard for PFOAs and PFAs in the nation

The NJDEP has published interim standards for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). These chemicals were used in products ranging from Teflon pans to stain-resistant clothing to firefighting foams. Many sites in New Jersey such as the Naval Aire Station at Willow Grove and the NJ Joint Base McGuire- Dix Lakehurst used firefighting foams and have prevalent contamination of PFAS there.

“This is a big step forward towards protecting public health from toxic chemicals. New Jersey now has the strictest standard in the nation for PFOAs and PFAs. This is critically important because more people are exposed to these chemicals in New Jersey than in any other state, roughly 1.6 million people. PFAS can cause cancer and weaken immune systems. Exposure at high levels of these toxic chemicals can cause cancer and weaken immune systems,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We thank the DWQI and scientists for their work and hopefully DEP will adopt this standard. This is an interim standard and the DEP still have to make it final. However, this is an important milestone.”

PFOAs and PFAs are also associated with serious health risks, including 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, the notice said.  The federal Environmental Protection Agency detected PFOA in 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 the chemical were also found in Burlington County, New Jersey, in a stream that runs from a wastewater plant at the Maguire-Fort Dix-Lakehurst military base to Rancocas Creek.

“It’s critical that DEP is finally taking action in adopting stronger standards for the contaminates like PFOA and PFAs. Almost 20% of the people in New Jersey are exposed to PFOS and PFAS. PFOS was found at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the surrounding areas in Burlington County. In Salem and Gloucester County, PFOs found near the Solvay site were seven times over standard. We have even found PFOS in our fish, even from the most pristine areas,” said Tittel. “Repeated exposure to PFOS can lead to development defects in children and pregnant women, liver and kidney problems, and even tumors.”

The interim groundwater standards created are rounded down to just 10 ppt for both PFOA and PFOS.

Under New Jersey law, the groundwater and drinking water standards are the same, it is not a quirk. In New Jersey, groundwater is considered potable and you have to clean it up for the strictest standard up to a million to one cancer risk. This is important because the army at Fort Dix will have to adopt the standard because under case law, the Department of Defense is not exempt from the state environment clean-up laws. We have won courts cases to get the military to meet these standards. The army cannot get around pollution our drinking water. They are supposed to protect the public, not pollute the public,” said Tittel. “We believe the DWQI did their job and came out with best standard they could even though we wanted 5ppt for both PFOA and PFOS.  However, 10ppt is better than what we currently have.”

In February of last year, (DEP) officially adopted amendments to the Ground Water Quality Standards, including adoption of a stricter standard for Perfluorononanoic Acid (PFNA). The Drinking Water Quality Institute had recommended at Maximum Contaminant Level for PFNA in July 2015 at 13 ppt, which is the standard adopted by the DEP.

“This is the second round of adoptions for PFOAs, DEP has already adopted stricter standards for PFNA at 13ppt. This is another harmful chemical in products like stain repellents that has been linked to some cancers to humans and to reproductive and development problems. Close to 2.5 percent of New Jersey’s public water systems tested was at levels that exceeded the guidance standard for PFNAs. While it’s good that DEP is moving forward in setting stricter standards for this chemical, we believe that the standard of 13 ppt should be lower to a more protective standard 5 ppt,”said Tittel.

New Jersey’s standard for PFAS will be the strongest in the nation. More importantly it will protect this state’s drinking water from the lack of action of the federal government to do so. The Trump Administration decided not to set a drinking water limit for two toxic chemicals known as PFOA and PFOS. This means there will be no federal requirements for utilities for testing or removing the chemicals from drinking water supplies.

“New Jersey is making its our own standards for harmful chemicals in our water because we can’t trust the federal government to make stronger enough ones to protect our communities. We thank the Murphy Administration and DEP for moving forward on adopting stricter standards for PFAS. However DEP must set stricter standards for the more than a dozen chemicals found in our waterways. It’s too important for our health and the environment,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

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