Source: NJ Spotlight
New Jersey became the first state to regulate the PFAS class of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other illnesses, but which is not regulated by the federal government — despite a growing national focus on risks to public health from the chemicals in drinking water.
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) formally adopted a plan to set a maximum contaminant limit (MCL) for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), which was used in consumer products such as nonstick cookware and flame-retardant fabrics. Although it was phased out by U.S. manufacturers, it persists in some water systems.
The DEP’s action concludes a four-year period of research into PFNA by state scientists. It will require water system operators to comply with the new limit of 0.013 micrograms per liter, stricter than the state’s previous standard, which was only advisory.
Operators of public water systems using groundwater to serve up to 10,000 people will have to start testing for the chemical in the first quarter of next year. Systems using surface water and those serving more than 10,000 people must start testing in the first quarter of 2020. Any operator detecting the chemical as low as 0.002 micrograms per liter will have to do quarterly monitoring even though the MCL is much higher.
Any supplier that finds its water exceeding the new limit will be expected to comply within a year, according to the rule, which amends the state’s Safe Drinking Water Act. Operators may be subject to administrative orders by the DEP if it concludes that prompt action is needed to protect public health.
But the DEP will be able to extend the deadline for compliance with the rule if there is no imminent threat to public health, and if more time is needed to build a new treatment plant, the rule said. The rule was adopted only five days before it would have expired under DEP rules. It becomes the first MCL for a new contaminant adopted by the DEP since 1996.
“Today the state has met the challenge to protect people from exposure to PFNA, one of the most toxic perfluorinated compounds known,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and a longtime campaigner for strict limits on the chemicals. “This historic moment has been a long time coming and at times looked impossible, but communities persevered in their demand for clean water.”
The Environmental Working Group (EWP), a national advocacy and research group, said the absence of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation on the issue exposes people to health risks in drinking water. Accorting to the EWG senior scientist David Andrews, “This is another significant state action that stands in stark contrast to the federal government, which continues to drag its feet, leaving millions of Americans vulnerable to PFAS water contamination.”