DEP Directs Five Chemical Companies to Fund Removal of PFAS Contamination Throughout State

Apr 03, 2019

Citing near daily findings of dangerous chemicals in New Jersey’s air, land and water, the state Department of Environmental Protection has identified five companies it says are responsible for the extensive contamination and is directing them to fund millions of dollars in assessment and cleanup efforts, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced late last month.

The directive requires DuPont, Dow DuPont, Chemours, Solvay and 3M to provide the DEP with a detailed accounting of their use and discharge of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, collectively referred to as PFAS chemicals, in New Jersey.

“It requires information ranging from use and discharge of the chemicals through wastewater treatment plants, air emissions and sales of products containing the chemicals to current development, manufacture, use and release of newer chemicals in the state,” the department explains. It also notifies the companies that the state will hold them financially responsible for the cost of remediation and treatment of PFAS-related contamination.

“The PFAS group of chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment and pose significant health risks to the public,” McCabe said. “In issuing this directive, we are putting these five companies on notice that many years of contaminating New Jersey’s precious drinking water and other natural resources will not go unchecked. On behalf of all New Jerseyans, we will hold these companies accountable and insist that they step up to address the problem they have created.”

PFAS chemicals are used in the manufacturing of plastics, some of which are used in nonstick cookware, stain-resistant coatings for upholstery, breathable water-resistant outdoor clothing and firefighting foams. They have been used to make brands such as Stainmaster, Scotchgard, Teflon, Gore-Tex and Tyvek.

“The chemicals can have dangerous effects when released into the air, land and water,” the DEP states. “Among the most well-studied PFAS chemicals are PFNA, PFOA, PFOS and GenX, a replacement for PFOA. PFNA, PFOA and PFOS are discovered on a near-daily basis in New Jersey’s drinking water, groundwater, surface waters, sediments, soils, air, fish, plants and other natural resources. They are cause for concern because none of the chemicals are naturally occurring; they do not break down in the environment; and research suggests they pose a variety of human health risks, even at low exposure, especially to developing fetuses and infants.

“Although these chemicals have been in use around the world for decades, regulatory agencies are only just starting to understand the dangers the compounds pose to human health and the environment,” the DEP added.

“Now is the time for action at the state level,” said McCabe. “The current Environmental Protection Agency plan leaves millions of Americans exposed to harmful chemicals for too long by choosing a drawn-out process that will delay establishing a federal maximum contaminant level for PFAS.” The EPA announced a plan in February to address PFAS contamination nationally, but, according to the state, that plan is expected to take years to enact.  —J.K.H.



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