News Feature | September 22, 2016

New Jersey At Odds With EPA's PFOA Limit

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Scientists working for the New Jersey government have released new recommendations on a controversial contaminant, suggesting a safety level that is lower than federal standards.

The new recommendation arrives from environmental and health researchers at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Drinking Water Quality Institute regarding perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

The state aids recommended “a limit of 14 parts per trillion (ppt) in drinking water to protect against health effects during a lifetime of consumption,” The Intelligencer reported. That is significantly lower than the 70 ppt limit the U.S. EPA recommended in May.

“And the 70 ppt level recommended by the EPA was a dramatic decrease over the agency’s prior, short-term recommended limit of 400 ppt. The new 14 ppt recommendation from the Drinking Water Quality Institute is just 3.5 percent of the amount considered by many regulators to be the safe limit only four months ago,” the report said.

New Jersey may decide to set its own limits on PFOA. Legislation in the state Senate would compel state regulators to consider the issue. Despite the findings in New Jersey, the EPA defended its own standards.

"EPA's drinking water health advisories are based on the best available peer-reviewed studies of the effects of PFOA and PFOS. EPA's health advisories serve as guidance to assist federal, state, tribal and local authorities, and managers of public or community drinking water systems," read an EPA statement, per The Intelligencer. "States may issue different values based on their own analyses, including more stringent values that may reflect more conservative assumptions."

The EPA issued a health advisory in May about exposure to perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) as various cities wage high-profile battles against the compounds, including Hoosick Falls, NY, and factory towns across the country. PFCs are industrial contaminants, and research has tied them to cancer.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been gathering data on PFCs ever since state testing showed the contaminant in water systems. The department is also studying methods for treating the contaminants, including granular activated carbon (GAC) removal technology. The department said in a report that the results of its research on PFCs will help it determine if regulation is needed.

“New Jersey may be a national hotspot for this type of contamination — chiefly because of the manufacturing facilities that have been based here,” NJ Advance Media reported. “Water sampled in the Gloucester County town of Woodbury had the highest concentration nationally of one variant of the compound.”

To read more about PFC issues visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.