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Home / Business / This chemical has contaminated N.J. for decades. Now, 5 companies have to pay big to clean up.

This chemical has contaminated N.J. for decades. Now, 5 companies have to pay big to clean up.



Five chemical companies contaminated New Jersey's water for many years with a prolonged, carcinogenic family of chemicals. Now the state controls these companies to clean up the mess.

On Monday, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued a directive to five companies – Chemours, Dow DuPont, DuPont, Solvay and 3M – aimed at addressing the pollution of what is called "PFAS" chemicals (short for polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl ; substance).

The chemicals used for products ranging from non-stick cookware to fire foam have been linked to cancer and other health effects, according to the disease control and prevention centers.

Under the new directive, which NJDEP called "groundbreaking", the named companies are required to disclose all information related to the use and release of PFAS chemicals in New Jersey. The companies will also be financially responsible for the cleaning and treatment of PFAS-related pollution in the state.

"The PFAS group of chemicals is ubiquitous in our environment and poses significant public health risks," NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe said.

"By issuing this directive, we alert these five companies that many years of pollution of New Jersey's precious drinking water and other natural resources will not go unchecked. On behalf of all New Jerseyans, we will hold those companies accountable and insist that they address to solve the problem they have created. "

Under the new directive, McCabe said that Solvay is expected to pay more than $ 3 million for cleaning work already done in West Deptford, where the company used perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) from 1

985 to 2010. McCabe said she was unsure at this time how much more money companies have to commit to cleaning up.

"We have already spent over $ 3 million to respond to West Deptford's pollution," said McCabe. "So we ask Solvay to cut us a check to reimburse us for our costs."

statement said Chemours It was reviewed by the NJDEP directive and that it is in regular communication with the state. The company stressed that it uses PFAS chemicals for its products.

"Chemours is committed to taking a leading role in environmental management and supporting the development of a scientific and risk-based approach to establishing standards and guidelines for PFAS compounds, "said the company." We believe collaboration and transparency are critical to achieving this. "

Dupont, Dow Dupont, 3M and Solvay did not respond promptly to comments on comment

The chemicals in the PFAS family have been produced and used commercially and industrially for more than 60 years, but regulators around the world have only recently begun to understand health effects, according to NJDEP.

The state said that PFAS chemicals are discovered on a daily basis in state water, soil, air, fish, plants and other natural resources. The chemicals are widespread in New Jersey, according to NJDEP, with the highest concentrations found in traditional industrial areas. West Deptford, where the Solvay plant used PFNA, is home to some of the highest levels of PFNA contamination in the world.

Military Bases such as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and Naval Weapons Station Earle also has high levels of PFAS contamination, especially perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), which is a common ingredient in firefighters.

"The Ministry of Defense, yes, is responsible for the PFOS pollution that you find around military bases, and so far they have been intensifying to monitor and look at the work needed to get those in control around these bases," McCabe.

Among the most well-studied PFAS chemicals, according to NJDEP, PFOS, PFNA, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and GenX, a separate family of chemicals designed to replace PFOA.

None of the chemicals are naturally occurring, according to NJDEP, and the chemicals do not break down into the environment. According to the CDC, PFAS chemicals can increase the risk of cancer, reduce a woman's chance of becoming pregnant and interfere with natural hormones.

New Jersey Sierra Club, a leading environmental conservation group in the state, praised the state's action.

"This is a very important step forward in enforcing New Jersey clean-up laws against polluters," said Jeff Title, the head of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

NJDEP's directive comes as the federal government is backing to regulate PFAS chemicals. In February, the US Environmental Protection Agency revealed a nationwide action plan for the problem, but briefly stopped setting a national drinking water standard for PFAS chemicals.

"Now it's time for action at state level," McCabe said. "The current EPA plan leaves millions of Americans exposed to harmful chemicals for too long by choosing a drawn-out process that will delay the establishment of a federal maximum level of pollution for PFASs."

This new directive is not the first step New Jersey has taken to address PFAS chemicals. In September, New Jersey became the first state in the country to set drinking water standards for PFNA. Earlier this month, NJDEP issued temporary groundwater standards for PFOA and PFOS.

McCabe said that state drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS are expected to come "in the near future". She added that upgrading of drinking water systems across the state to addressing PFAS chemicals could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Read the entire NJDEP directive below:

This story was updated at. to include comment from Chemours.

Read more of NJ.com s coverage of New Jersey water problems here.

Michael Sol Warren can be reached at mwarren@njadvancemedia.com . Follow him on Twitter @ MSolDub . Find NJ.com on Facebook .

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