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Tell New Jersey: Remove PFOA and PFOS from Drinking Water and the Environment

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Public Comment Needed for Regulatory Package by 5.31 – Hearing May 15 in Trenton

Please submit a comment to NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) in support of mandatory safe drinking water standards, also called maximum contaminant levels (MCLs), for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). PFOA and PFOS are highly toxic, do not break down in the environment, build up in human blood, are known to be connected to serious negative health effects, including cancer, and are the two most prevalent of the poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in New Jersey. They have primarily been released by manufacturing companies in various nonstick products such as Teflon and stain resistant coatings and by the military in firefighting foam. NJDEP is also proposing several other regulatory measures applying to PFOA, PFOS and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) aimed at curtailing and cleaning up the contamination and compelling those who caused the pollution to pay for it.

Public comment on the proposal is open through May 31 and a hearing is being held 2:00 pm, May 15, at the DEP office, 401 E. State Street, Trenton. See the background information below for talking points. Please send a written comment by filling out the form below – you can send the sample letter, modify it or write your own in the template provided. Your letter will be automatically submitted with a click.

Read the proposed regulations at https://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/notices.html

People across the state are drinking water that contains these highly toxic compounds because the federal government does not regulate them and corporations like DuPont, Chemours, and 3M have been using them in manufacturing for decades. Department of Defense facilities have been releasing the toxins into the environment through the use of firefighting foam at military bases such as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and Earle Naval Air Station. The contamination has become a crisis that requires comprehensive action by the state, represented in the proposed regulations, due to the inaction of the EPA to provide a federal mandatory MCL. Chief among the proposals is the requirement that PFOA and PFOS be removed from drinking water based on an MCL of 13ppt for PFOS and 14ppt for PFOA. Please take a couple of minutes to write to NJDEP for swift adoption of the proposed package to protect New Jerseyans.

Send a letter by filling out this form below:

 


What the Proposal Says, Background and Talking Points

The comprehensive regulatory package includes:

  • Discharges of Petroleum and Other Hazardous Substances Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:1E
  • Ground Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:9C
  • Private Well Testing Act Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:9E
  • Safe Drinking Water Act Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:10
  • New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:14A

The proposed regulations would require PFOA and PFOS to be tested for and removed from drinking water if found above 13ppt for PFOS and 14ppt for PFOS in public and private wells (under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Private Well Testing Act rules).  Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) advocates an even stricter standard based on an independent toxicological analysis commissioned by DRN. An MCL of 1ppt or no greater than 6ppt for PFOA and 5ppt for PFOS is recommended based on greater protection for the fetus, infants and young children who are vulnerable to developmental effects and the risk of future disease from these compounds. This is essentially “non-detect” since these are close to the levels that can be reliably measured in laboratory testing. Additionally, we advocate a standard of the combination of PFOS and PFOA concentrations in water supplies should be no higher than 13 ng/L. Read the report and DRN’s comment on PFOA: https://bit.ly/2VuRnyZ and on PFOS: https://bit.ly/2C9NMOt

The Discharges of Petroleum and Other Hazardous Substances rule would add PFOA and PFOS (and the anionic form of PFNA) to the List of Hazardous Substances regulated under the Spill Compensation and Control Act. This would increase the restrictions on their handling to prevent discharges, impose strict liability for timely investigation and cleanup, and connect to a Spill Fund that is used for remediation, cleanup, and removal, among other actions.

Under the Ground Water Quality Standards, the MCLs for PFOA (14ppt) and PFOS (13ppt) will become the groundwater standard that must be met for groundwater that is primarily used for drinking water and will be the minimum remediation standards for cleanup of contaminated sites.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) advocates an even stricter groundwater standard for PFOS based on an independent toxicological analysis commissioned by DRN that points out that even at very low doses, early life exposure of children to PFOS may affect risk for disease later in life. DRN recommends the proposed Ground Water Quality Criteria and Standard be lowered to no more than 5ppt for PFOS. DRN supports the PQL of 4ppt for PFOS.

For PFOA, DRN advocates a stricter groundwater standard recommended by an independent toxicological analysis commissioned by DRN that points out that more sensitive endpoints can be utilized to develop an MCL, providing greater protection. DRN recommends the proposed Ground Water Quality Criteria and Standard be lowered to 1ppt, or alternatively, should be no higher than 6ppt. DRN recommends that the PQL be lowered to either 2ppt or 3ppt, depending on the analytical approach.

For PFOA and PFOS combined, DRN recommends a Ground Water Quality Criteria and Standard no higher that 11ppt. Read DRN’s comment and technical report: https://bit.ly/2T8frKd

Under the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System rules, discharges to groundwater must adhere to the adopted groundwater quality standards so all dischargers will have to sample at least once a year for PFOA, PFOS and PFNA and new applications will have to contain the information as a parameter in the permit.

This regulatory package is the most robust proposed in the nation to date. It speaks volumes about how serious and widespread the PFAS problem is in New Jersey. The lack of federal action has required the state to step up to remove this threat from the water people drink every day and the environment and to do it NOW. It is essential that drinking water AND the environment be cleaned of PFOA and PFOS to provide the protection the public needs.

The highly toxic contaminants are being found in drinking water, ground and surface water, air, soil, sediment, plants and fish across New Jersey. Most public drinking water systems in the state that have been tested are found to contain PFOA and PFOS, potentially affecting millions here.

Perfluorinated compounds (PFC) surfaced as a contamination problem in New Jersey in 2005 at DuPont’s Chambers Works facility in Deepwater, New Jersey on the Delaware River where high levels of PFOA were used and released into the region. NJDEP investigated the occurrence of perfluorinated compounds there and throughout the state and issued a guidance level of .04 ppb (40 ppt or ng/L) for PFOA in 2007.  The NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) began to study PFOA with a goal of recommending a MCL to NJDEP.

Unfortunately, the DWQI was shut down by the Christie Administration in 2010, just as the Institute was going to release its recommendation for an MCL for PFOA.  After an expose by Delaware Riverkeeper Network of the dangerously high concentrations of another PFC, perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), in drinking water in the region around Solvay Specialty Polymers, a plastics manufacturer in West Deptford, NJ. The Institute was finally reconvened in April 2014 due to public and municipal government outcry. NJDEP charged them with exploring MCL recommendations for PFNA, PFOA and PFOS.

In 2018, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection adopted an MCL of 13 ppt for PFNA, one of the most toxic PFCs, as recommended by the DWQI in 2015. This was the first MCL for a PFAS to be adopted by any state, especially important considering the lack of action on a federal MCL for any PFAS and the inadequate Health Advisory Level (HAL) for PFOA and PFOS developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Work began by the DWQI to develop a recommendation for PFOA and PFOS after the DWQI recommendation for PFNA.

In March 2017, DWQI recommended an MCL for PFOA of 14 ppt.  In June 2018, DWQI recommended an MCL for PFOS of 13 ppt.

The scientific studies on PFOA and PFOS make it very clear that low levels of exposure build up in the blood over time because the compound is not broken down by the body and takes years to excrete. That means that even very low drinking water exposure increases blood levels over the levels found in the general population, risking disease and adverse health effects. Because the compounds do not biodegrade in the environment, they are often called “forever chemicals” and persist as pollutants, spreading through groundwater and other media even though they have been phased out by major U.S. manufacturers (however, most firefighting foams and goods imported from overseas still contain PFAS).

The PFAS problem is now nationally recognized as sampling has revealed many of these compounds in water supplies across the U.S. and communities are clamoring for safe water. These proposed regulatory actions by New Jersey, based on up-to-date science and sound public policy, lead the nation as a model in this national water crisis and are essential to protect the people and ecosystems in the state.