New Jersey continues to lead the country in the effort to regulate so-called “Forever Chemicals,” the family of chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) found to be prevalent in drinking water supplies around the country due to their high solubility, mobility and persistence in water. PFAS are found in many household products, and they have been used in various industrial applications – including electroplating, metal finishing, adhesives, paints and many coatings. PFAS are also found in Aqueous Film Forming Foam (“AFFF”), which is used to extinguish fires caused by petroleum products such as oil and jet fuel.
In September 2018, New Jersey became the first state to establish a drinking water standard (“Maximum Contaminant Level” or “MCL”) for PFAS, following the recommendations of the Drinking Water Quality Institute (“DWQI”), which is an advisory body to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) responsible for recommending MCLs in drinking water. The NJDEP established an MCL for perfluorononanoic acid (“PFNA”) of 13 parts per trillion (“ppt”). Recently, the NJDEP announced plans to propose the country’s first MCLs for perfluorooctanoic acid (“PFOA”) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (“PFOS”). DWQI recommends an MCL for PFOA of 14 ppt, and an MCL for PFOS of 13 ppt; these numeric criteria may be included in the upcoming rule proposal.
In addition to regulating PFAS in drinking water, the State intends to regulate PFAS in ground water as well. NJDEP has developed and is requesting public input for draft Interim Specific Ground Water Quality Criteria (ISGWQC) and draft Interim Practical Quantitation Levels (PQLs) for PFOS and PFOA, which will establish cleanup levels in groundwater contaminated with these substances. In its announcement, NJDEP expressed its disappointment in the Trump Administration’s failure to move quickly to establish federal MCLs for PFAS.