Jersey Nixes Filtration Plan for Drinking Water
State Wants EPA to Act on Rising Chemical Contamination of Water Supplies
Trenton — The State of New Jersey has rejected a rulemaking petition to require systematic monitoring and filtering of drinking water. As a result, state residents will continue to ingest hundreds of unregulated chemicals daily as New Jersey steps back from its leadership role on the issue.
The petition filed in early September by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) was based upon a plan developed by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) back in 2004 that was never implemented. That plan and the PEER petition called for monitoring water supplies for the growing presence of unregulated chemicals from pharmaceuticals, consumer products and industry and using treatment systems, such as granular activated carbon filtration, to remove most chemicals.
DEP Commissioner Bob Martin rejected the PEER petition on November 22, 2010 in an “action notice” slated for publication next week in the New Jersey Register. In his notice, Martin conceded that state testing has detected “approximately 600” chemical compounds in water systems but argued that action was premature because DEP, among other reasons –
- Lacks information on the toxicity levels for the vast majority (78%) of chemicals detected;
- Is just now getting around to building pilot filtration systems at two water treatment plants paid for back in 2004 although Martin did not say when these systems will be operational; and
- Wants to wait for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a national “Drinking Water Strategy” although there is no timetable for a viable plan or any regulatory action.
“Commissioner Martin is still not ready to move forward on the plan his own department developed six years ago,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst, noting that Martin even rejected coordinated chemical monitoring and public disclosure of results. “Continued inaction means our internal organs will be the main filter for the thickening brew of chemicals in our water.”
At the same time, there are no state standards for many of the most dangerous chemicals in drinking water, such as formaldehyde, because DEP has sat on recommended standards from its Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI), an impasse extended by the anti-regulatory agenda of the Christie administration. Moreover, the DWQI itself appears to be in limbo, as DEP is deferring to its newly created Science Advisory Board (SAB) that features strong corporate representation for guidance on unregulated contaminants.
“Chemical companies now control the decision-making about New Jersey’s drinking water standards,” added Wolfe, noting that companies like DuPont (which has employees and consultants in key SAB slots) have a huge financial stake in keeping their chemicals from being regulated. “As things stand, we are all guinea pigs in an uncontrolled lifelong corporate chemical experiment.” .
New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability