The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has responded to complaints about possible contamination in the borough’s public water supply with a letter stating that action is warranted for the most sensitive populations.
Tests of Pauslboro’s main water supply — well #7 — has found levels of perfluorochemicals (PFCs), such as perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) up to 150 parts per trillion, or .15 parts per billion.
According to the DEP, there are currently no drinking water standards or guidance levels for PFNA, and such high concentrations warrant concern.
In a letter addressed to Paulsboro’s water department, and signed by Karen Fell, assistant director of water supply operations at the DEP, “an abundance of caution” is suggested.
“We recommend for the most sensitive population, infants and children up to age one, that bottled water or liquid prepared formula be used, including use of bottled water when preparing powdered or concentrated formula,” the letter reads.
Paulsboro and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network — an environmental group that first brought attention to this issue — say the contaminants stem from the Solvay Solexis plant in neighboring West Deptford. The company used PFNA in its production process until 2010.
Representatives from Solvay Solexis have recently said they are working with the DEP to find a solution to the problem. The company is testing surface water and sediments in the Delaware River, groundwater and drinking wells, the DEP said.
Last week, Paulsboro sent letters to the DEP, Gov. Chris Christie and the Department of Heath to “respond immediately” to what the borough council is calling a “public health issue.”
The DEP’s letter included a fact sheet about PFNA, which will be posted on the borough’s website for residents to examine.
PFCs, it says, are persistent in the environment and found worldwide in people and wildlife, soil and groundwater. People are exposed to PFCs through contaminated water or food, or by using products that contain them.
PFCs bioaccumulate in the body, and health effects of the contaminants are still being studied. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, they can be toxic to laboratory animals and wildlife, causing various effects.
Paulsboro’s governing body was slated to discuss this topic in a public meeting on Tuesday, but due to the weather, the meeting was cancelled.