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Perfluorinated Compounds: PFOA, PFNA, and more

For over 10 years, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has been calling for the cleanup and regulation of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), highly toxic compounds that have been released into the environment through manufacturing and waste for many decades. These chemicals have been so widely used that they are ubiquitous in our environment in many media such as water and soil, and are found in most people’s blood — even in polar bears in the Arctic. Many places are struggling with learning recently about PFCs, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (“PFOA”), PFOS, and PFNA, in their drinking water. Some communities have known about PFCs in their community for some years; New Jersey was one of the first locations to discover the problem (after West Virginia’s Dupont Washington Works plant where Robert Bilott first exposed this pollution problem). After years of struggle, the public has finally seen action on one PFC – Perfluorononanoate acid (“PFNA” or C9), one of the most toxic PFCs.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is finally doing something about PFCs. In late 2015, NJDEP adopted an interim groundwater standard for PFNA. This success resulted from community organizing, research and reports by scientists, and the commissioning of studies and ongoing attention by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. This standard was adopted as part of the regulatory process that will now require treatment of drinking water to remove PFNA and require cleanup of the pollutant from the environment, including groundwater and soils, in the region influenced by Solvay, the plastics manufacturer responsible for PFNA water contamination in Gloucester County. New Jersey is the first state to set a limit for PFNA. NJDEP has yet to take action on adopting a safe drinking water standard for the entire state for PFNA and has not taken final regulatory action on other PFCs or PFOA (except for issuing a voluntary guidance level) despite Dupont’s release of the compound in the Deepwater NJ area surrounding their Chambers Work facility. DRN continues to advocate for these needed regulations and the removal of them from our environment.