Fluoride Action Network

Paulsboro residents express water woes, Solvay lays out contamination remediation plan

Source: South Jersey Times | February 20th, 2014 | By Rebecca Forand
Industry type: Perfluorinated chemicals

Solvay Specialty Polymers laid out a four-step plan to address the borough’s water problems on Tuesday evening at Paulsboro’s town council meeting.

There, more than 100 residents attended to express their frustration and grill representatives from the company, the local government, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health.

Residents are concerned about high levels of perfluorochemicals (PFCs), such as perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), which has been measured in high levels in Paulsboro’s Well No. 7, currently the only source of public water in the town.

PFCs are an unregulated chemical that was used in Solvay’s West Deptford plant from 1985 through 2010 when the company voluntarily stopped using it after being asked to by the Environmental Protection Agency.

There are no known health effects of the chemical from human consumption, as tests are currently ongoing. Out of an “abundance of caution,” the DEP has recommended that Paulsboro residents with children one year or younger give their babies bottled water until the issue is resolved.

At the public information session, dozens of Paulsboro’s townspeople asked questions of the company, the DEP, the DOH and the borough council regarding safe drinking levels, who is responsible, and how the problem can be fixed.

The majority of individuals asked about possible health effects of the chemical in their water, the timeline for getting it out of the water supply and who is going to pay for water treatment.

“My main concern is in regards to the letter we received saying kids one and under need to drink bottled water. My kids are 6. How do I know my kids aren’t impacted?” asked Clifford Foster.

“My son is 3. What’s the difference between a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old?” added Dottie Palmisano. “I don’t want to leave, but I don’t want my kids to die from cancer. I don’t want my grandchildren born with five feet or something.”

As the DEP and DOH explained what data exists regarding contamination of PFCs, Solvay Specialty Polymers, the company one group has identified as the source of the chemical, explained a working relationship with the borough in which they are working together to implement a plan to address the problem.

According to Geoff Pass, the plant manager at Solvay’s West Deptford plant, the plastics manufacturer is conducting water sample tests, and while Paulsboro works to fix problems in wells 8 and 9 — which are offline due to naturally occurring radium — the company is working with a water treatment expert to come up with options to improve the water quality on well no. 7.

“We hear your concerns, we see your frustration,” Pass said. “We’re moving as quickly as possible.”

Treatment options vary from point-of-use filtration or filtration directly at the source of the water, be it filtration or chemical treatment. A plan is expected within the month to determine which would be most efficient and effective, according to Solvay.