New Jersey’s Drinking Water Quality Institute recently proposed a new quality standard that would greatly reduce the presence of a harmful chemical in the water supply. The chemical in question is called PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, and it is one of the most commonly used manufacturing substances in the world. It can be found in waterproof clothing, non-stick cookware, stain-proof carpets, and many other household products that are meant to make life easier. Unfortunately, the true dangers of the chemical were not readily known when it was first put into use, and now the chemical can be found just about everywhere in the environment.
Thousands of lawsuits have also been put forth in relation to the chemical, which is yet another reason why the state’s Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) recommended a new standard that would force all water treatment facilities to reduce the percentage of PFOA in the water supply if it is accepted. While some have praised the idea as completely necessary, deliberate, and economical, others have said the additional water treatment would cost far more than the value of the benefits it would create. The majority of the conflict comes from smaller utility providers that would see the largest drop in profits if forced to enact additional treatment processes.
Currently, PFOA levels of up to 0.04 parts per billion are acceptable in drinking water, but the New Jersey DWQI wants to reduce that standard to 0.014 parts per billion. That reduction is almost three times less than the current standard, and nearly all municipal water systems in New Jersey would be affected by the new standard since most water supplies have far greater concentrations than the new standard dictates.
The Prevalence of PFOA in New Jersey’s Drinking Water
PFOA is found quite commonly in New Jersey, much more so than in many other states. Studies conducted as recently as 2009 showed that levels of the contaminant were above the current standard of 0.04 parts per billion in Atlantic City, Brick, Greenwich, Garfield, Orange, South Orange, Montclair, and many others. Some efforts have been taken to reduce the presence of PFOA at those sites, but some have already had to close down.
The EPA has conducted their own investigation over the recent years, and they have discovered that PFOA levels are above 0.02 parts per billion in over a dozen water systems in New Jersey. That is half the acceptable level under the current standard and nearly 1.5 times the level of the newly proposed standard.
A Nationwide Problem
PFOA is one of the most significant carcinogens in the environment, not only because it causes cancer at an alarming rate, but also because it does not degrade naturally. Since the chemical is still in use in manufacturing, the environment is constantly pumped full of more of the substance, but it has no where to go. Such a substance clearly falls under the realm of government regulation since it is linked to so many health conditions, like kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, and many others.
Despite such a clear case of contamination, the substance remains one of thousands unregulated substances, at least in terms of direct federal or state intervention. PFOA has been in use for so long that it can actually be found in the blood of just about every American.
It is no wonder that the New Jersey DWQI wants to enact regulations on PFOA. Studies have shown that activated carbon filters can safely remove PFOA from water, and such filters also have the ability to remove other dangerous toxins as well. The expense might be great, but the cost is well-worth the peace of mind that goes along with healthy drinking water.
Learn more about Hazardous Chemicals in New Jersey.