LETTER – New DEP Water Standards on PFNA and 1,2,3-TCP Too Little, Too Late

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is proposing to amend the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) rules at N.J.A.C. 7:10 to establish, as recommended by the New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute (Institute), a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) of 0.013 micrograms per liter (µg/l) and an MCL for 1,2,3-trichloropropane (1,2,3-TCP) of 0.030 µg/l. These amendments may be too little too late for the people who have been drinking contaminated water. The DEP has clearly mislead the legislature and the public when they said they still needed to check the Drinking Water Quality Institute’s data on some chemicals. In particular, DEP is planning to implement a new Maximum Contaminant Level for Trichloropropane (1,2,3-TCP) based on recommendations from the DWQI at 0.03 ug/L. This was the same recommendation from the Institute in 2009, but they told the legislature they still needed time to review the data. 1, 2, 3-TCP has been used as a solvent, cleaning & degreasing agent and could be found in paint, removers, and pesticides (as an impurity). Exposure by inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion can be harmful to health.

 “The DEP is proposing this rule eight years late and it still won’t be adopted until the next Administration. The Christie Administration has failed to adopt one new standard to protect our drinking water. It is clear that they’re deliberately hiding information from the public. Instead of fixing the problem, they are kicking the can down the road until the next Administration. They have the science of what the standards should be for 1,2,3 TCP and PFNA, but they are playing political science because of the Governor’s anti-environmental agenda,” said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director. “New Jersey’s residents have been put at risk because of the failure of the DEP to adopt new standards on drinking water. For example. PFNA is an endocrine disrupter that has been linked to some cancers in humans and to reproductive and developmental problems in animals. It has been pervasive in many New Jersey public water systems. 1,2,3- TCP is a known carcinogen that has also been found in our water.”

They will have a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 0.013 micrograms per liter (µg/l) for Perfluorononanoic Acid (PFNA). A study by the DWQI released in April 2015 found the chemical in 2.5 percent of the public water systems tested was at levels that exceeded the guidance standard. That compared with just 0.2 percent nationwide. Another study found PFNA and related chemicals in 67 percent of 31 municipal systems tested in 20 counties during 2009 and 2010. PFNA levels seven times the newly proposed standard was found near the South Jersey town of Paulsboro where Solvay Specialty Polymers manufactured the chemical between 1985 and 2010.

“While the Administration are considering amendments, doing studies and expanding testing, the problem is none of this work will even begin until the Governor is gone. The delay to act not only threatens drinking water, but means contaminated sites will not be cleaned-up as much as they should be. We not only need more testing on Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) and 1,2 Dibromo-3-Chloropropane (DBCP), gross alpha, uranium, and arsenic, but stricter standards. These chemicals are harmful to people and the environment. With more testing, we can help prevent a public health disaster, but we also need to lower the standard because findings of alpha radiation are frequently exceeding the standard. Now that more toxic materials are being found naturally and from contaminated sites, we need to take immediate action to address these toxins,” said Jeff Tittel. “We are also still waiting for DEP to adopt standards on Perchlorate, Radon-222,  Benzene, DCPA, 1,2,3-trichloropropane, perfluorononanoic acid and 11 other chemicals. The more the DEP stalls action on these chemicals, the more people are being threatened.”

The Governor did the real damage on clean water protections when he first came into office and issued Executive Order 2. This called for no rules stricter than federal standards which would impact the regulation of these compounds in our water.  For example, he froze and then rescinded the standard for perchlorate. The Institute was also working on standards for PFNA, PFC, chromium and arsenic, but the DEP has failed to act on some of their recommendations. New Jersey law requires a one in a million drinking water standard for cancer while the federal limit is one in 10,000 to one in 100,000 depending on the chemical.  The Christie administration has not adopted any new standards while in office.

“The longer we wait to develop stricter standards, the more people’s health is at risk. By failing to meet over the past few years, the Institute has actually given the Christie Administration cover for not updating standards for drinking water. Since we have clearly fallen behind, that is why it is critical that we expand testing and set new standards because it may take a year or more to adopt them,” said Jeff Tittel. “Before the Christie Administration, the Drinking Water Quality Institute received awards in the past for the work they have done not only saving thousands of lives, but millions of dollars. However, under Governor Christie the DEP has not even adopted a single standard in seven years. As a result, everyday people throughout the state are drinking all kinds of toxic compounds.”

The Institute is responsible for setting the standards of acceptable limits for toxins and carcinogens in our drinking water. They look at health based risk assessment to ensure that the water we drink is safe. Before the Christie Administration, the Institute received awards in the past for the work they have done not only saving thousands of lives, but millions of dollars. In the latest years, the Institute has been stacked with Christie supporters who don’t do their job.

“These rules should have been in place many years ago and we have been drinking contaminated water all this time. The more DEP delays action, the more people are drinking contaminated water. The Administration preventing the Drinking Water Quality Institute from meeting and stacking them with polluters, impacts all of us. By ignoring and withholding the science, the DEP has clearly sided with polluters and chemical companies over the people of New Jersey. That is why we need to expedite the DEP’s proposed efforts to expand testing and develop stricter standards. We also need the DEP to take action on the new standards recommended by the Institute on 16 chemicals to adequately protect public health and the environment,” said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director.