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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
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.
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.
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 FEDERAL advisory levels of 70 parts per trillion
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. Once received, the Borough will share this information on its website at www.hawthornenj.org
According to the DEP, some people who drink water containing PFOA or PFOS in excess of the MCL over many years could experience problems with their blood serum cholesterol levels, liver, kidney, immune system, or, in males, reproductive system. Drinking water containing PFOA in excess of the MCL over many years may also increase the risk of testicular and kidney cancer. For females, drinking water containing PFOA or PFOS in excess of the MCL over many years may cause developmental delays in a fetus and/or an infant.
More information on PFAS in drinking water can be found in the New Jersey Department of Health's drinking water facts on the subject.
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.
If you have specific health concerns, consult your doctor.
If you have a severely compromised immune system, have an infant, are pregnant, or are elderly, you may be at increased risk and should seek advice from your health care providers about drinking this water.
Bottled water is not regulated nor tested for PFOA, PFOS or other contaminants as is done for public drinking water
No, boiling water does not remove PFOA or PFOS.
The Borough engineer has been working since June to design a treatment system that will remove PFOA and PFOS from the drinking water
Bidding for construction of the treatment system will occur in March after completion of the design specifications, but must await approval of a permit by the DEP whose review of the permit application is ongoing.
Although a bid for construction pf the system is expected to be awarded by April of 2022, the current estimated timeframe for delivery of the necessary equipment is 55 weeks from the order date, which will likely push completion of the installation into mid-2023. DEP is has notified the Borough that we only have until August 25, 2022,to be in compliance (which means having the treatment system operational), the Borough still has not received DEP approval of the required permit, and the aforementioned estimated delivery schedule for the equipment makes this date totally unrealistic..
The Borough Engineer’s current estimate (prior to completion of the design) on the cost of construction on a treatment system is somewhere in the vicinity of $5 million.
The actual cost will be obtained through public bidding.
The system will also increase annual operating costs due to periodic replacement of media in the filters.
The Borough has applied to the State of New Jersey for a low interest loan to reduce the debt service costs for money borrowed to building this treatment system.
The Borough is exploring the possibility of a lawsuit against the manufacturers of PFOA and PFOS to recover all or a portion of the cost of the treatment process.
Any residual cost of the treatment system - whatever is not covered by the low-interest loans or recovery from the lawsuit - will be funded by the issuance of bonds.
The Borough will need to raise its water rates, as soon as 2023, to repay any bonds or low-interest loans used for the construction of the treatment system, as well as the operating costs of this system. The amount of that rate increase won't be known until after the final construction costs are known along with the interest rates for any borrowed funds.