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Policy Directive 2003-06 - Subject: Drinking Water Standard for Arsenic

Federal and state regulations currently set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic in drinking water of 10 ug/L (micrograms per liter, or parts per billion), effective in 2006. This directive initiates a more protective standard under New Jersey law.

New Jersey's landmark safe drinking water law mandates that the Department set an MCL for arsenic, a carcinogen, to achieve a risk level of one in one million excess cancer risk over a lifetime of exposure. The statute precludes consideration of cost in meeting this level of protection, but does acknowledge that this level of protection may not be technically feasible for all contaminants. The current standard set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is mirrored in current state regulations, does not meet the level of protection prescribed by New Jersey law. This is attributable to EPA's consideration of cost in setting the federal standard, which is not permitted under New Jersey law and which included costs of treatment in States where the costs of reducing arsenic levels are far greater than in New Jersey. The federal standard was proposed and adopted prior to a 2001 revision to a study by the National Research Council [NRC] presenting data and analysis suggesting that the health risks of arsenic in drinking water may justify a more protective standard. (Note: the 2002 NJ proposal considered the new NRC data).

Taking these factors into account, the Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) has recommended an arsenic MCL for New Jersey of 3 ug/L. The DWQI concluded that New Jersey's statutory risk goal cannot be reached by currently available technology, but that an MCL for arsenic of 3 ug/L would bring the risk level as close to the prescribed standard as current technology allows.

While I generally agree with the DWQI's analysis, I do not agree with the Institute's ultimate recommendation. The DWQI acknowledged that two of the treatment technologies that are recommended for arsenic removal are unlikely to be used in New Jersey because of the stringency of our state's discharge criteria for waste water. I am hesitant to require that water suppliers provide treatment using the remaining two technologies recommended by the DWQI because of the lack of historical performance data from water suppliers in New Jersey performing field testing. A case in point is the fact that the New Jersey Corporation for Advanced Technology has only verified one technology for arsenic removal and its verification is at a level of 5ug/l.

Based on this concern as to the availability of reliable removal technology, I am directing the Water Supply Administration to develop a proposed regulation for publication in the New Jersey Register to establish an MCL for arsenic in drinking water of 5 ug/L. I issue this directive acknowledging that doing so will make New Jersey's standard for drinking water protections of arsenic the most stringent in the country, both as compared to other states and as compared to the federal level of 10 ug/l. The proposed regulation should be available for publication in a register this fall.

Date: _______________ _________________
  Bradley M. Campbell

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: July 3, 2018