PFOA Issue

Updated February 2019

What is the issue?
A contaminant known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was found in water supplied by South Orange’s Well #17. Repeated testing over time has confirmed the presence of PFOA, an unregulated contaminant in water produced by Well #17.

On November 1st, 2017 South Orange Water Utility (SOWU) received word from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) that it intends to regulate PFOA and establish a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 14 nanograms per liter (ng/L) which is equivalent to 14 parts per trillion (ppt) or 0.014 micrograms per liter (µg/L).

We expect NJDEP will move forward with rulemaking to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act rules (N.J.A.C. 7:10) to regulate PFOA. This is good news for the health of everyone in New Jersey. The rulemaking will also come with requirements for testing and reporting, which South Orange Water Utility will implement and follow once established.

What Has Been Done To Correct This?
Well #17 has been taken offline (Nov. 2018) and is the process of being rehabilitated. It is not known exactly when the NJDEP will enact this new compliance level but in the meantime, SOWU will install granular activated carbon (GAC) filter units to remove this compound (and others including tetrachloroethylene) from its water. We do not expect this project to be complete until 2020, so Well #17 has been taken offline and will no longer contribute water to the system until the GAC unit can be operational. Subsequent testing done after the shut off of Well #17 confirms that PFOA levels are now below the level of 14 parts per trillion which is soon to be established by the NJDEP. See test results below.

More about PFCs
PFOA is one of a class of man-made perfluorinated chemicals referred to as PFCs. PFCs also include PFOS, PFNA, and PFHxS, among others. None of the other PFCs have been found to be in excess of guidelines in South Orange water at this time.

South Orange PFOA Testing results
Sampling is done at several locations to get a more representative sample of the overall system. Testing facility results are expressed as nanograms per liter (ng/l) which is equivalent to parts per trillion (ppt) which the NJDEP uses as a measure. Samples of Well#17 water were taken from our DPW facility at 300 Walton Ave.

PFOA Test Results

Sample Date Sample Site Sample Result

*After Well Shutdown Nov. 30, 2018
31 W. 3rd St.
Lackawana Pl.
309 Irvington  Ave.   
160 S.O. Ave.
319 S.O. Ave.
8.4 ppt
8.1 ppt
8.7 ppt
8.4 ppt
8.7 ppt
10/18/2016 300 Walton Ave.
454 Valley St.
309 Irvington Ave.
319 S.O. Ave.
31 W 3rd St
160 W S.O. Ave
71 ppt
33 ppt
30 ppt
20 ppt
9.4 ppt
9.6 ppt
07/21/2016 300 Walton Ave.
454 Valley St.
309 Irvington Ave.
319 S.O. Ave.
67 ppt
47 ppt
2.9 ppt
2.8 ppt
04/28/2016 300 Walton Ave.
454 Valley St.
300 Valley St.
309 Irvington Ave.
67 ppt
27 ppt
26 ppt
23 ppt
Updated September 2016

As stated in our earlier posting, the Village recently learned of the detection of an unregulated compound, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in water produced by Well #17. PFOA is not currently regulated, nor required to be tested for, by either the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) or the United State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, scientific studies have shown possible adverse health effects resulting from PFOA exposure. As a result, the NJDEP and the EPA have established guideline levels of PFOA in drinking water and are currently contemplating the regulation and mandatory testing of drinking water for PFOA. The NJDEP guideline is 40 ppb (parts per billion) for a “lifetime” exposure, defined as 70 years of exposure. The EPA guideline is 400 ppb for a “short term” exposure of weeks or months.
As noted in our January posting, the Village’s Well #17 water had previously tested in excess of the NJDEP lifetime exposure guideline, but well below the EPA short term exposure guideline. In addition, the Well #17 water represents only about 10% of the water in our system and no consumer receives 100% Well #17 water. Instead, the Well #17 water is blended with water from EOWC which had not tested in excess of the guidelines. As a result, the Village knew the Well #17 water was diluted, but we did not know the extent of that dilution or blending. 
As an initial step, the Village arranged for additional sampling and laboratory testing of both Well #17 water and water from other selected locations in the water system. Those locations were the closest points above and below the point that Well #17 water is introduced into the system, two additional points further downstream from those initial points, as well as a sample taken from the Seton Hall campus.
We are pleased to report that while the Well #17 water again tested above the NJDEP guideline, none of the additional samples tested in excess of the more stringent NJDEP lifetime exposure guideline of 40 ppb. 
The Village has arranged for additional testing and is committed to continued monitoring of the PFOA levels pending a permanent solution. In this regard, the Village has commissioned our water engineer to complete a hydraulic system analysis to confirm the directional flow, concentration, and blending of the Well #17 water. In addition, the Village is exploring the flexibility we have in Well #17 production, and specifically our ability to reduce the production and thereby increase the dilution. We are also exploring both interim and permanent GAC (granular activated charcoal) filtration systems to treat Well #17 and remove the majority of contaminants including PFOA’s and VOC’s. 
We will keep the public updated as these efforts continue, but felt that it was important to provide the additional test results which confirm that the blended water in the system being delivered to consumers does not exceed even the most stringent NJDEP 40 ppb “lifetime exposure” guideline.

As part of the Village’s water system infrastructure upgrades, we will be installing a GAC (granular active carbon) treatment and disinfection system specifically for Well #17 that will remove both the volatile organic compound tetrachloroethylene and the unregulated compound, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). More information on the install date and specifics of this device will be posted as soon as it is available.