Read the full article by Susan Phillips (WHYY PBS)
“Residents of Willingboro, Burlington County, recently learned one of the township’s water supply wells has elevated levels of one type of the group of toxic chemical compounds known as PFAS, which are linked to some cancers and other health issues. Township officials say that the well was taken offline, and that the water is safe to drink.
A letter to residents posted on the Willingboro Municipal Utilities Authority website last week says PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonate, is present at an average annual rate of .0155 micrograms per liter, measured over the past year. At a maximum contaminant level of 0.013 micrograms per cubic liter for PFOS, and .014 micrograms per cubic liter for PFOA, New Jersey has the most stringent regulations in the country when it comes to these so-called ‘forever chemicals.’
The levels detected in Willingboro’s water supply are much lower than in communities near some military bases, where firefighting foam contaminated drinking water. They are also far lower than the EPA’s advisory level.
Still, they leave residents like YaKima Lemon with questions about how the chemicals could have already had an impact on her two children, ages 4 and 6.
‘We don’t know how long this has been going on,’ Lemon said in an interview Wednesday. ‘Was it a problem before it was known?’
The chemicals need to be removed through an additional filtration system and cannot be eliminated through boiling water. New Jersey advises parents not to use water with elevated levels of PFOS for infant formula.
‘For me, what do they plan to do to fix this?’ said Lemon, who grew up in Willingboro and is a nurse who works with developmentally disabled adults. She wonders how the chemicals may have affected her patients as well.
If water treatment facilities in New Jersey measure PFAS above the established maximum contaminant levels, they have one year to reduce the toxic chemicals through filtration systems. New Jersey began requiring municipalities to measure for two of the most common PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, this year, after implementing standards far beyond the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s advisory of .07 micrograms per liter.
PFAS are called ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not break down in the environment. They are used in industrial manufacturing and are present in common items like nonstick cookware, stain-resistant materials, and flame retardants. New Jersey began studying the impact of these chemicals after discovering contamination in drinking water supplies near DuPont’s Chambers Works plant in Salem County.
Some of the most high-profile PFAS-contaminated water supplies are near military bases where firefighting foam caused groundwater pollution. The group of chemicals is widespread in groundwater nationwide, and while particular causes for each contaminated site is not always known, it is often due to nearby manufacturing facilities.”…