After chemical infiltrates N.J. water systems, DEP working toward more careful regulation

 Perfluorooctanoic acid, a suspected cancer-causer,has been detected in some New Jersey water supplies over nine years of testing.(Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Perfluorooctanoic acid, a suspected cancer-causer,has been detected in some New Jersey water supplies over nine years of testing.(Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey is working with a panel of scientists to develop stricter regulation of a hazardous chemical found in some water systems.

Perfluorooctanoic acid, a suspected cancer-causer, was used in the manufacture of Teflon cookware, carpets, and other products.

Utility companies took corrective action to treat the water after levels higher than the safe consumption guidance amounts set by the state were detected in 12 water systems over nine years, said state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna.

“We’re confident that utilities are aggressively keeping an eye out for this,” he said. “We have a guidance level currently set that is the toughest in the nation.”

The water supply throughout the state is safe and the public should not be alarmed, Hajna said.

But David Pringle with the environmental group Clean Water Action said he still has concerns.

“Alarmed like stop drinking water or bathing? No.

“Alarmed that we have some of the highest cancer rates in the country and we’re not doing enough to prevent the cancer in the first place?” he said. “Yes.”

Pringle said polluters should have to pay for getting the chemical out of water supplies.

“The answer to these chemicals, once they get in the drinking water, is a carbon filter,” he said. “So rather than spending billions trying to figure out what an appropriate standard would be — and the end results would be putting on a carbon filter — let’s just put the carbon filter on in the first place and the chemical industry should pay for it.”

State officials aren’t sure how the chemical ended up in drinking water.

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