New Jersey Orders Companies to Remove PFAS Contamination in State

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is requiring five companies it says is responsible for extensive PFAS contamination to fund millions of dollars in assessment and cleanup efforts.

The directive’s announcement was made by DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe on March 25.

It requires the five companies—Solvay, DuPont, Dow DuPont, Chemours, and 3M—to provide the DEP a detailed accounting of their use and discharge of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, collectively referred to as PFAS chemicals, in New Jersey. It also requires information ranging from use and discharge of the chemicals through wastewater treatment plants, air emissions, and sales of products containing the chemicals to current development, manufacture, use, and release of newer chemicals in the state.

The directive also notified the companies that the state is holding them financially responsible for the cost of remediation and treatment of PFAS-related contamination.

“The PFAS group of chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment and pose significant health risks to the public,” McCabe said. “In issuing this directive, we are putting these five companies on notice that many years of contaminating New Jersey’s precious drinking water and other natural resources will not go unchecked. On behalf of all New Jerseyans, we will hold these companies accountable and insist that they step up to address the problem they have created.”

The directive is a first of its kind in the nation in that New Jersey is directing chemical manufacturers to conduct a statewide assessment of the damage caused and to establish a fund to remediate the impacts.

However, New Jersey isn’t the first state to put the onus on a company to pick up the tab. Eight years of litigation came to an end in February 2018, when 3M settled for $850 with Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.

The five companies have 21 days to tell New Jersey whether they intend to comply with the directive, which the state says it can issue because of its Spill Compensation and Control Act, Water Pollution Control Act, and Air Pollution Control Act.

“The Department has expended tremendous resources to investigate the presence of these substances in New Jersey’s environment, as well as monitor, treat, clean up, and/or remove these substances in impacted areas,” the directive states. “As a result, the Department has determined it is imperative to the protection of the public health and safety and the environment of New Jersey that such investigation, monitoring, testing, treatment, cleanup, and removal continue, and that respondents, not New Jersey residents, pay for these activities.”

PFAS has been on NGWA’s radar for several years and will remain a priority issue for the foreseeable future. The Association has created a Groundwater and PFAS resource center for NGWA members. The center includes PFAS FAQs, top 10 facts about PFAS, and a homeowner checklist, among other items. NGWA is also the publisher of the guidance document, Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice.

As in 2018, NGWA is hosting educational events on PFAS this year as well:

A roundtable Q&A with industry experts on PFAS is in the April issue of Water Well Journal, which was just published and focuses on water quality and water treatment. A video interview with Avram Frankel, PE, one of the experts interviewed in the Q&A, was conducted as well.