Board Investigates NJ Water Quality

By Christie Duffy

PFCs are chemicals commonly used to make plastic. They’ve been found in some drinking water supplies, prompting concern from residents and environmentalists. PFCs are not regulated. While the state does have an advisory board, the Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) last met in 2010.

“The head of the DWQI had resigned in protest four years ago when the Christie administration new rules from going forward on certain toxic chemicals in our drinking water,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Executive Director Jeff Tittel.

Environmentalists claim the chemical industry has held too much sway over New Jersey’s water policy in the past. And they’re pushing for greater transparency and public input in the future. But the new chairman began today’s meeting by pledging that policy will be kept out of the board’s science-based recommendations.

“I’m not getting involved in policy. Best science data got,” said NJ Water Quality Institute Chairman Keith Cooper.

The unpaid board’s nine members are appointed evenly by the governor, Senate president and Assembly speaker. Many are academics and scientists. It’s their recommendations that go straight to the commissioner of the DEP, who can regulate and enforce.

According to the EPA, New Jersey has nearly three times the levels of PFCs detected in samples from other areas in the U.S.

Residents in Paulsboro and other towns in Gloucester County were found to have the greatest exposure. Blood testing will begin on Paulsboro’s residents in the coming months. They were advised to give infants bottled water only after a local well was tested for seven times above the chemical limit. That well is now shut down.

“We’ve heard a lot. We’ve heard about pregnancy induced hypertension, thyroid disease, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and liver abnormalities,” said Mark Cuker, an attorney in the drinking water lawsuit.

Cuker is suing on behalf of families who have been drinking the water. PFNA is a type of PFC. And it’s believed to be the most toxic. At least two federal lawsuits have been filed against a nearby company that used more of the chemical in the past than almost anywhere else in the world. The state is working to pinpoint a source. Solvay is working with the government, but does not admit they’re behind the contamination.

So when will the advisory board move forward with recommendations on this potentially dangerous chemical? They’re not scheduled to meet again until September. They are accepting public input through Thursday.