New Jersey officials found that “perishable chemicals” exceed health limits in the water supply systems that serve the two schools, and in more than 40 private wells in Mercer County.

The Department of the Environment found chemicals in schools and another local public water system during tests at three sites in the Pennington / Hopewell area, NJ Spotlight News reported. These discoveries have so far led to the testing of 142 private wells, 42 of which contained chemicals at levels that exceeded recently imposed regulatory limits.

The DEP is currently sampling in residential and commercial private wells at PNFA, PFOA and PFOS, three types of PFAS chemicals for which New Jersey has imposed strict limits on drinking water in drinking water over the past few years.

The DEP said Monday it was also investigating whether PFAS private wells were contaminated in other parts of the state, but did not immediately identify them.

The agency said it is working with property owners to install water supply systems that filter out chemicals. He urged homeowners whose water exceeds state limits to switch to bottled water and seek reimbursement for the cost of installing treatment systems from the New Jersey Spill Fund, a state fund that compensates households for hazardous substances and pays for their cleaning. The source of the infection has not yet been identified.

“Current research confirms that these chemicals, which are stored for a long time in the environment and accumulate in the human body for many years, over time can cause public health concerns,” the DEP said in a statement on Saturday. “Because the impact on human health is even related to the low levels of PFOC and PFOS, it is important to minimize exposure from drinking water.”

A treatment system has been established

At Timberlane High School at the site of the Pennington-Titusville Road groundwater contamination, officials installed a treatment system in 2020 after detecting elevated levels of three chemicals, lowering PFAS to an “undetected” level, the agency said.

Another filtration system was installed in 2020 at Bear Tavern Primary School, where PFAS contamination was detected seven times above health limits, but has now dropped to an “undetected” level, the DEP said. Officials also found elevated PFAS in the third system on Route 31 and Tree Farm Road. Detections in all three systems led to testing of water from private wells.

The DEP said it continues to advise municipal and local health officials on the progress of investigations. He urged all property owners who have private wells to regularly check for contaminants.

The testing program marks the final phase of New Jersey’s efforts to regulate, detect, and eliminate a class of chemicals associated with a range of diseases, including certain cancers, developmental delays in young children, and immune system disorders. The state has one of the country’s highest levels of PFAS in drinking water due to its long industrial history, and in recent years has set some of the most stringent health standards in the country for chemicals in the absence of federal restrictions.

At one Hopewell property, in November, tests found that one of the chemicals, PFOS, exceeds the state’s maximum pollution limit. Tests also found two other types of chemicals at the level that meet state limits, and four other types of PFAS for which the state has no regulatory standards.

A new state standard from early 2021

PFOS was found there at 16 parts per trillion, which is above the New Jersey standard at 13 parts per trillion, effective from the first quarter of 2021.

After receiving the results of the DEP analysis warned the owners of this property, Connor and Christy Luff, not to drink water.

“PFOS was detected in a concentration that exceeded the current standard,” the DEP letter of February 18, received by NJ Spotlight News, said. “This level of contamination is unacceptable for drinking water, and water from your well should not be used for drinking water.”

Lafy moved into his home in March 2021 and tested the water for various contaminants but not PFAS chemicals. The couple said they drank water from the well until they received a DEP letter.

“They keep telling us that if we stop drinking it, there are no long-term problems, but we still take a shower in it, we still use it to wash dishes and clothes.”

Since then, they have been drinking bottled water, and in April a granular activated carbon filter and an entry point cleaning system are to be installed in their well. They expect the cost of about $ 7,000 to be reimbursed by the state, but they are concerned that in exchange for reimbursement they may have to waive the right to demand payment of any future medical expenses due to illness due to drinking water containing chemicals PFAS, beyond state health limits.

In its letter to Luffs DEP said they may be eligible for compensation for the cost of the PFAS filtration system from the New Jersey Bottling Fund.

“Very upset and disturbing”

If the couple bought their home anytime after December 1, 2021, they would have to test the water for the three types of PFAS chemicals that are now regulated by New Jersey. Tests required for the sale of real estate under the Private Well Testing Act, the PFAS regulations came into force last December.

Loofah is concerned that they have been drinking tap water for 11 months without knowing it is contaminated and now plan to pass a blood test for chemicals.

“I find it very frustrating and worrying that residents are not being given more information about where it came from and why it is happening, and why it is necessary to put a cleaning system in our house,” Conor Luff said.

“We are only worried about long-term problems. They keep telling us that if we stop drinking it, there will be no long-term problems, but we still take a shower in it, we still use it to wash dishes and clothes, ”he said. “We are just concerned about any long-term issues and they are not providing us with information about that.”

The The Environment Agency says PFAS chemicals may be linked to health problems including decreased fertility or high blood pressure in pregnant women; developmental delays such as low birth weight in infants; kidney, prostate or testicular cancer and high cholesterol.

Finding out the source

Chemicals that have been used in many consumer goods since the 1940s are widespread in water and soil because they do not break down in the environment, earning the nickname “chemicals forever”.

Conar Luff suspects the chemicals entered groundwater either from Trenton-Mercer Airport or from a former air warfare center near the airport – each about two miles from his home. The 29-year-old Luff said he came to this conclusion based on conversations with private water testing companies and not from any information from the DEP.

“All the signs seem to point to these two places,” he said.

For years, military bases and civilian airports across the country have used fire-fighting foam containing PFAS, polluting groundwater nearby.

The closed military base in Trenton is now a federal Superfund site, where tests in 2016 revealed 15 locations where two types of PFAS exceeded New Jersey’s health limits. Opponents of the Trenton-Mercer Airport expansion plan say the project could disrupt contaminated groundwater beneath the base and cause PFAS chemicals to enter a nearby creek or Delaware River about two miles away.

PFAS “forces our local authorities and water authorities to spend significant funds on its treatment.”

Testing of local water supply systems and private wells is accompanied by compliance with new standards in large-scale public water supply systems. In January, the DEP published it the first list of utilities whose water supply violated new standards. Seventy-four systems exceeded health limits, but this does not necessarily mean that they continued to supply contaminated water when the list was published because some disconnected contaminated sources or began taking water from other systems after sampling.

Detection of PFAS in private wells reflects a new mode of application of DEP, said Tracy Carluccio, a longtime PFAS regulatory activist and deputy director of the environmental group Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “While maintaining the maximum contamination limits for these compounds, we will find them in places you didn’t expect,” she said. Because they are “eternal chemicals”, they do not disappear. It could have been put there a long time ago. “

Probably higher water tariffs

About 13% of New Jersey residents get their water from private wells, said Sean Laturet, commissioner of the Department of Health, at a PFAS hearing in the Assembly’s Environment and Solid Waste Committee last week.

LaTuret said cleaning up PFAS is expensive, and much of the cost is likely to be borne by the population in the form of higher water tariffs. However, he said the DEP has sued major PFAS manufacturers, including DuPont and 3M, arguing they have to pay a bill to get rid of the pollution.

“PFAS poses a significant risk to public health and public safety,” he said. “This is forcing our local authorities and water utilities to spend significant funds on cleaning it.” He estimated that New Jersey is facing a bill of $ 500 million to $ 1 billion for purifying PFAS in water.

Matthew Chick, director of water quality and environmental compliance at New Jersey American Water, the state’s largest water utility, said PFAS pollution has made groundwater much more expensive to treat.

He urged water suppliers to prevent PFAS chemicals from entering their systems, an approach that would be less costly than trying to purify them if they are present. “The money spent on preventing PFAS from entering our waters can save a lot of dollars in the future,” he told the board.

The hearings represent a potential first step by the legislature in tackling an issue that has so far been addressed through regulation.

“It is very important that we, as the legislature, take steps to protect the water we drink,” said Sterley Stanley (D-Middlesex), the committee’s deputy chairman, after the meeting. “We need to look deeper into this issue and I’m sure there will be solutions.”

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