On June 1, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) published stringent drinking water standards for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in the New Jersey Register. These chemicals belong to a broader class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) that are extremely persistent in the environment and have been linked to various health problems in people including some cancers, immune system problems, low birth weight, and thyroid effects.
The new rule sets maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) at 14 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 13 ppt for PFOS. These levels are based, in part, on recommendations by the New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute and are significantly lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 70 ppt combined level for these substances set in a health advisory. These substances have been found in greater concentrations in New Jersey in comparison to other states, most likely because of the state’s legacy contamination due to industrial production. These contaminants represent the second and third chemicals in the PFAS category to be regulated by NJDEP; the first was perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), which NJDEP regulated in 2018. PFNA has a state MCL set at 13 ppt.
NJDEP Commissioner, Catherine R. McCabe, is quoted as saying, “New Jersey is leading the way in addressing an issue of national importance by setting the first drinking water standards in the nation to protect the public from the health risks of these chemicals. We will continue to take strong actions to protect the health of our residents and the quality of our drinking water supplies.” As early as 2006, New Jersey became the first state to conduct statewide studies of PFAS in drinking water and now has some of the most stringent state regulations of PFAS substances. A copy of the new regulation can be found HERE.