Hawthorne Water System Update- PFAS
WHAT ARE PFOA AND PFOS?
- 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)
WHAT IS HAWTHORNE DOING TO COMPLY WITH DEP LIMITS?
- 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)
HOW WILL HAWTHORNE PAY FOR REQUIRED TREATMENT?
- 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
- How much PFOA and PFOS is there in Hawthorne water?
- PFOA levels range from 18 to 27 nanograms per liter (= parts per trillion), depending on the dates and points of entry* tested from 2020 to 2021 (*where treated water enters the system)
- PFOS levels range from 3 to 24 nanograms per liter (= parts per trillion), depending on the dates and points of entry* tested from 2020 to 2021 (*where treated water enters the system)
- 1 nanogram per liter (= part per trillion) is the concentration of a single drop apportioned among 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
- Where do PFOA and PFOS come from?
PFOA and PFOS do not occur naturally. 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. Through one means or another, they have penetrated into the deep underground aquifer from which Hawthorne draws its water, most likely from industrial discharges
- Why have PFOA and PFOS become a problem now?
In 2020 the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) set new limits on PFOA and PFOS in drinking water (limits that are well below the current federal health advisory levels). With regular testing required starting in 2021. The water itself has not changed.
- What are the limits for PFOA and PFOS as set by the NJ DEP?
The DEP “maximum contaminant level” for PFOA is 14 nanograms per liter (= parts per trillion)
The DEP “maximum contaminant level” for PFOS is 13 nanograms per liter (= parts per trillion)
These levels are significantly less than the federal EPA “health advisory level” of 70 nanograms per liter (parts per trillion), either individually or combined.
- Is Hawthorne water safe to drink?
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.
The DEP limits appear to have been established due to an abundance of caution and a concern about consumption of water over a lifetime
Hawthorne’s water has concentrations of PFOS and PFOA well below the current federal advisory levels of 70 parts per trillion
- 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.
- Bottled water is not regulated nor tested for PFOA, PFOS or other contaminants as is done for public drinking water
- 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 (corrected posting 11/15/2021)
Other resources on this topic are listed below.