Water safety doubted

Water safety doubted

Postby pfpcnews » Thu Sep 07, 2006 7:11 am

Water safety doubted

Chemical alleged in Sayreville tap

Home News Tribune - September 6, 2006


SAYREVILLE — Recent testing that showed a nondetectable level of a synthetic chemical in the borough's taps and streams was insufficient and misleading, a coalition of environmental and union groups said.

"The results are flawed in the way they were done," Denise Patel of the N.J. Work Environment Council said during a press conference yesterday. "We think the borough needs to test again."

But borough officials reject the coalition's charges and stand behind the testing.

The municipality had its water checked in the summer for perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOA or C-8, after the coalition announced the chemical used at DuPont's Parlin plant had filtered into the area and could pose cancer risks to workers and residents.

The coalition — dubbed the DuPont Accountability Coalition — said the borough's probe failed to examine streams, failed to look for other chemicals and used an unacceptable minimum detection level.

The threshold used in testing for the borough by the Denver-based Severn Trent Laboratories was 10 parts per trillion, resulting in a "nondetect" for water drawn from the Bordentown Avenue water plant, the Middlesex Water Company's interconnection and a fountain at the borough library.

Samples taken in May by the United Steelworkers Union revealed four sites, including two residences and the library, showed PFOA levels at between 3 and 4 ppt, it was announced. Samples taken from two creeks near the Parlin plant were said to reveal PFOA levels of about 23 to 53 ppt.

Jane Nogaki of the N.J. Environmental Federation said 10 ppt was an "artificially high limit" and called the borough's probe and explanation of the results the "crudest kind of information" for residents.

Business Administrator Jeff Bertrand defended the borough's examination, noting the probe was done in a manner prescribed by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Severn Trent is the only lab NJDEP has certified for such testing.

While Severn Trent did not return a call seeking comment about the detection level used in testing for the borough, Bertrand said his understanding is that level was chosen to ensure accuracy.

Bertrand saidn the municipality never mentioned that PFOA did not exist, only that if it did, it was at minute levels and was not detectable by the lab.

"We're quite concerned that these groups are alarming our residents," he said. "We are not in the market to be dishonest or misleading with any of our residents, and we take our drinking water seriously."

Borough officials have said the municipality's water comes from outside borough boundaries and goes through various treatments such as carbon filtration, which should eliminate PFOA and is an unrequired step by the state's Safe Water Drinking Act.

The home of borough resident Margaret Rocca was tested by the union.

"My children are afraid to drink the water," Rocca said at yesterday's press conference at the borough library. "We need to know what they're going to do about this."

Rocca said her family has been drinking bottled water since the test, and she has concerns about using the bath water.

The coalition yesterday said DuPont previously came under fire in Ohio by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for using a detection level of 10 ppt. A call placed to the EPA yesterday about detection levels was not immediately returned.

While PFOA has caused adverse affects in lab animals, the impact to humans is not fully known. A number of EPA advisers believes PFOA is a "likely carcinogen," though the agency has not made an official decision.

The EPA instituted a voluntary "global stewardship program" asking eight companies, including DuPont, to reduce PFOA from emissions and product content by 95 percent no later than 2010. The program also seeks the elimination of PFOA and related chemicals from emissions and products by 2015. All eight companies signed on.

The chemical is used in the manufacture of a number of items such as Teflon pans and Gore-Tex. The chemical is found in low levels throughout the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population, according to the EPA, but experts are not yet sure how it travels.

DuPont is currently the only domestic producer of PFOA. While the chemical is used at the Parlin site, it's not manufactured there.

No acceptable level of exposure to PFOA has been set at either the state or federal level. PFOA falls under an interim, generic groundwater quality threshold of 5 ppb in New Jersey, NJDEP officials said.

Minnesota sets a PFOA threshold of 7 ppb, said Barker G. Hamill of the NJDEP's Bureau of Safe Drinking Water.

Hamill yesterday said the NJDEP, which has been involved reviews of the water, has no plans to re-examine Sayreville's water quality at this time.

DuPont officials have questioned the testing methods and motives of the United Steelworkers Union — they represent DuPont workers outside Parlin — saying the labor group targets the chemical giant because it wishes to change bargaining procedures.

George Osei, regulatory affairs manager at DuPont's Parlin plant, called the coalition's actions "unfair" to not only DuPont but the people of Sayreville.

"Sayreville has gone to a great extent to demonstrate . . . that the water they receive from the borough is well within the (required) standards," he said, adding that DuPont regularly monitors its site and reports findings to regulators.

Union officials said they began testing because workers at DuPont plants in other parts of the country were shown to have elevated levels of PFOA in their bloodstreams.

Lawsuits have been brought against DuPont regarding its use of PFOA, including a suit alleging DuPont's Deepwater plant in Salem County has polluted area water.

The company in December 2005 paid $16.5 million in a settlement with the EPA after failing to disclose possible health risks associated with PFOA.

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