Hawthorne Water System Update- PFAS


  • Perfluorotanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOS), along with Perfluoronoanoic Acid (PFNA), are chemicals within a larger class of chemicals known as Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
  • PFAS do not occur naturally, but are widespread and extremely persistent in the environment.
  • They are man-made chemicals that have been used to make carpets, clothing, fabric for furniture, paper packaging for food, and other materials (such as non-stick cookware) that are resistant to water, grease or stains. They are also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes.
  • Due to recent New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rules, many water utilities throughout the state, including Hawthorne Water, will be required to install new treatment processes to eliminate these chemicals that are found in their source water. Other nearby utilities affected include Ridgewood, Garfield, Waldwick, Ho-Ho-Kos, Passaic Valley Water Commission and NJ American


  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a health advisory level of a maximum 70 ng/L (nanograms per Liter) for PFOA and PFOS, either individually or combined.
  • Hawthorne’s water has concentrations well below those EPA health advisory levels.
  • The new DEP “Maximum Contaminant Levels” (MCLs) are 14 ng/L for PFOA and 13 ng/L for PFOS.

Note: 1 ng/L = 1 part per trillion (ppt), and would be the concentration of one drop split among 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools

  • It is unclear to the Borough the scientific basis for determining that there is an actual health risk at such low levels of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.
  • The Borough has not yet received a response to its Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to the DEP seeking the scientific studies upon which the new limits were based.
  • The DEP limits appear to have been established due to an abundance of caution and a concern about consumption of water over an entire lifetime.
  • DEP has said that neither PFOA nor PFOS is deemed an acute contaminant, and the notice issued by the DEP is NOT deemed a “do not drink” order.


  • 2007 – NJ DEP promulgated a health guidance level of 40 ng/L for PFOA in drinking water 
  • 2016 – Federal EPA issued drinking water advisory health levels for PFOA and PFOS of a maximum of 70 ng/L, either individually or combined.
  • September 4, 2018 - NJ DEP issued regulations setting drinking water MCL for PFNA at 13 ng/L. (Testing shows NO presence of PFNA in Hawthorne Water).
  • June 1, 2020 – DEP issued regulations setting drinking water MCL for PFOA at 14 ng/L and for PFOS at 13 ng/L, based on an annual quarterly average, and requiring quarterly testing of water by utilities in 2021.
  • 1st Quarter, 2021 – Hawthorne began quarterly testing for PFOA and PFOS as required by regulations.
  • June 15, 2021 – Based on preliminary test results, but before any notice from the DEP, Hawthorne Borough Council introduced a bond ordinance (adopted on 7/7/2021) to fund the design of a treatment system to remove PFOA and PFOS.
  • August 31, 2021 – DEP issued Hawthorne Water a “Notice of Noncompliance” for PFOA and PFOS requiring corrective action to remove the chemicals within one year, and requiring notice to all customers.
  • September 24, 2021 – Hawthorne issued required notice to water customers (see below)
  • December 16, 2021 - DEP issued Hawthorne Water a "Notice of Non-Compliance" for PFOA and PFOS requiring corrective action based on 2021 4th quarter test results
  • January 7, 2022 - Hawthorne issued required notice to water customers (see below)


  • In July, 2021, Hawthorne authorized the Borough Engineer to design a treatment system to remove PFOA & PFOS
  • Preliminary plans and application for DEP permit were coimpleted in November, 2021
  • A permit application to the NJDEP for construction of PFAS treatment was submitted in December 2021
  • DEP issued the Borough a permit for construction in April, 2022
  • A bid for construction of a treatment system is expected to be issued in May, 2022.
  • Award of a contract to construct PFAS treatmetn is expected to be awarded in July, 2022
  • Construction of PFAS treatment system is expected to be completed by May, 2023 (30-week lead time for delivery of equipment)


  • Total cost will be 7 to 8 million dollars
  • Borough has applied to the State of New Jersey for a low interest loan, possibly with partial principal forgiveness, which would lower teh cost to ratepayers
  • The Borough has hired an attorney to file lawsuit against manufacturers of PFOA and PFOS seeking to recover all or a portion of the cost of treatment
  • A rate increase for customers will need to be enacted effective by 2023 to pay any residual debt service costs for the project
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  • Boiling water does NOT remove or neutralize PFOA or PFOS.
  • No home filter or filtering system is certified by the DEP at this time for removing PFOA or PFOS from drinking water.   The NJ Department of Health advises that SOME granulated activated carbon filters or reverse osmosis filters can reduce the level of PFAS in drinking water. The Borough cannot make recommendations on products
  • Pursuant to DEP regulations, Hawthorne will re-issue a notice quarterly until regulatory MCLs are reached via treatment.

June 16, 2021 Power Point Presentation by Borough Engineer

September 24 2021 Public Notice - 2021 3rd quarter (corrected posting 11/15/2021)

January 7, 2022 public notice - 2021 4th quarter PFAS

May 3, 2022 public notice - 2022 1st quarter PFAS

October 4, 2022 public notice - 2022 2nd quarter PFAS

October 28 2022 public notice - 2022 3rd quarter PFAS CORRECTED

December 22 2022 public notice - 2022 4th quarter PFAS CORRECTED

December 22, 2022 public notice - failure to remediate

February 2, 2023 NJWB Funding for PFAS Project

April 3, 2023 Public Notice 2023 1st quarter PFAS

April 3, 2023 Public Notice 2023 1st quarter PFAS Spanish

July 2023 Public Notice 2023 2nd quarter PFAS

July 2023 Public Notice 2023 2nd quarter PFAS Spanish

October 2023 Public Notice 2023 3rd quarter PFAS

October 2023 Public Notice 2023 3rd quarter PFAS Spanish

January 2024 Public Notice 2023 4th quarter PFAS

January 2024 Public Notice 2023 4th quarter PFAS Spanish

Other resources on this topic are listed below.

NJ Department of Health Water Facts on PFAS

NJ-DEP/NJ Dept of Health PFAS In Drinking Water Presentation 11/30/2021

US Environmental Protection Agency – Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) Substances

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) Substances and Your Health

The Public Health and Safety Organization – Search for NSF Certified Drinking Water Treatment Units, Water Filters