Printer Friendly

Traces of toxic chemicals found in North Jersey water supplies.

A toxic chemical that recently raised concerns throughout the region when it was found near the Wanaque Reservoir has been detected in several smaller drinking water supplies that serve more than a dozen North Jersey towns.

Test results compiled by the federal government in the past three years show 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen, in Fair Lawn, Garfield, Pompton Lakes and several other towns that rely heavily on wells. It has also been found in almost 80 other water systems in every part of the state, from Shore towns to Highlands communities.

Environmental officials say there is no imminent health threat from the levels of 1,4-dioxane that were detected, but there is still no clear consensus on how much of the chemical can be in drinking water before it makes anyone ill. The federal government has yet to develop a national standard for the chemical in water supplies. New Jersey does not yet have one. And the standards established in other states vary wildly.

The findings in North Jersey range from a barely traceable amount in Park Ridge to a sample almost 30 times greater taken from some of Fair Lawn's wells that are in a Superfund site.

While the amounts of 1,4-dioxane found in North Jersey are incredibly small--the highest recording of 3.24 micrograms per liter in Fair Lawn is equivalent to three drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool--they are important to regulators in setting baselines that determine how much exposure creates a health threat.

The chemical made news recently after it was discovered in groundwater at the Ringwood Superfund site in the Ramapo Mountains, where Ford Motor Co. dumped tons of paint sludge almost 50 years ago. Although that groundwater is in the watershed that supplies the Wanaque Reservoir, 1,4-dioxane has not been detected in the reservoir, which serves up to 3 million people.

But it has been found in water systems that serve Fair Lawn, Garfield, Pompton Lakes, Oakland, Ramsey, Park Ridge, Elmwood Park, Ridgewood, Wallington, Hawthorne, Mahwah and other towns that receive most of their water from wells, according to an analysis of EPA data by The Record.

The highest concentrations, by far, were found in Fair Lawn, which has been treating contaminated drinking water for almost 30 years. It was followed by Garfield, Pompton Lakes and Oakland. All were above the New Jersey standard to clean up groundwater: 0.4 micrograms per liter. But that standard applies only to contaminated site cleanups, not water systems.

While the towns have reported their findings of 1,4-dioxane to residents in annual water quality reports, there is nothing explaining what it means. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection plans to eventually develop a drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane since it has been found in water supplies across the state.

The highest level, 5.83 micrograms per liter, was found at a New Jersey American Water Co. plant that draws water from wells for parts of Warren County, according to EPA data.

Without a national standard, other states have to develop their own.

California and Colorado have two of the strictest, with 1 microgram per liter and 3.2 micrograms per liter, respectively. New York allows almost 16 times that at 50 micrograms per liter while South Carolina accepts up to 70 micrograms per liter.

Trying to get 1,4-dioxane out of water is difficult and expensive.

Tucson, Ariz., built an $18 million treatment plant that uses a method called "advanced oxidation" in which ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide remove 1,4-dioxane and other contaminants. It opened in 2014 and purifies 8 million gallons a day.

The Tucson well system, like Fair Lawn's, is contaminated with the chemical trichloroethylene, a cancer-causing solvent known as TCE that is often found in wells polluted with 1,4-dioxane.

Tucson, like Fair Lawn, had blasted the water with air for almost three decades to remove TCE well before it reached any faucets. But Tucson found 1,4-dioxane in its drinking water as far back as 2002. While blending the contaminated water with fresh water helped lower the concentration, water officials didn't think it would fall far enough to meet updated EPA health standards.

"There was the sentiment that the city didn't respond well in the '80s, when we first found TCE in the water," said Fernando Molina, a spokesman for Tucson Water. "We wanted to stay ahead of 1,4-dioxane and make sure everyone knew this was important to us."

Fair Lawn is similar but on a much smaller scale. The town has been removing harmful chemicals from drinking water for almost 30 years at a treatment plant. The water comes from the Westmoreland Well Field, one of the region's oldest Superfund sites. It is contaminated with solvents from Eastman Kodak, Fisher Scientific and Sandvik Inc. that leached into the water supply.

Much of the 1,4-dioxane stays in Fair Lawn's water even after air stripping, Garrison said. But the town is not prepared to make a major investment in new technology until environmental regulators develop a firm standard.

Source: Scott Fallon, The Record
COPYRIGHT 2016 Jade Media Partners
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2016 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Hazardous Waste Superfund Alert
Date:Mar 25, 2016
Previous Article:Commissioners question DEQ over Montana Pole Plant site.
Next Article:Ashland, MA Selectmen concerned about apartment complex near Nyanza site.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |