Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that were used globally in commercial and industrial applications since the 1940s. PFAS can be found in a wide variety of products including: nonstick cookware, food packaging, upholstered furniture, carpets, clothing and shoes resistant to stains, soil and water, and firefighting foams. PFAS may be released into the air, soil, and water where they can accumulate in the environment due to their extreme persistence. PFAS are particularly concerning due to their abundance in consumer goods and the tendency of the chemical to accumulate in the human body, which can lead to adverse health effects.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) have been the most widely produced and studied of the PFAS chemicals. PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured in the United States, but unfortunately they are still produced internationally and can be imported into the United States in consumer goods.
Because of an intial lack of federal regulation, states began establishing their own standards regarding PFAS. NJ is the first state to take aggressive action against the levels of PFAS in the environment, while holding companies responsible for the pollution. On September 4, 2018 New Jersey established a drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) for another PFAS, perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA). In February 2019 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced an action plan regarding initiating steps to evaluate the need for MCLs for PFOA and PFOS, designating PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances”, developing ground water cleanup recommendations for PFOA and PFOS at contaminated sites, and developing toxicity values for GenX chemicals and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS). It is expected that the USEPA will propose a regulatory determination by the end of 2019.
On March 25, 2019, the NJDEP issued a directive involving companies like DuPont, 3M and Solvay to provide a detailed account of the use and discharge of PFAS chemicals, and to pay the costs for remediating contamination and compensating the public for harm to natural resources.
As of April 1, 2019 NJDEP proposed a rule to establish both drinking water standards and groundwater cleanup standards for PFOA and PFOS. The NJDEP proposed to amend the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) rules at N.J.A.C. 7:10 to establish an MCL of 14 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOAs and 13 ppt for PFOS. If the proposed rule takes effect it will potentially have significant impacts on both ongoing and future remediating sites in New Jersey. The NJDEP has provided a 60-day comment period on this new regulation.