The Division of Science and Research (DSR) provides scientific support for NJDEP’s efforts to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) found in New Jersey’s environment. DSR’s work on CECs, including PFAS, includes development of the scientific basis for standards, guidance values, and fish consumption advisories, as well as research and technical support on their environmental occurrence and fate and transport.
DSR and other NJDEP programs have focused on the evaluation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for over 15 years, and New Jersey is recognized as a national leader on this topic. DSR scientists recognized that PFAS are different from other well-known persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) contaminants and that their presence in the environment is a cause for concern when they were first reported in New Jersey waters in the mid-2000s. While PFAS were not widely known as important environmental contaminants at that time, they have since become a major focus of attention both nationally and worldwide. DSR scientists are authors and co-authors of numerous peer-reviewed publications and reports on occurrence, fate and transport, health effects, and risk assessment of PFAS, and they have given presentations on PFAS at numerous scientific conferences.
DSR Research and Technical Support
History of PFAS in New Jersey
After learning that PFOA was present in ground water including wells used for drinking water near a New Jersey industrial site, NJDEP conducted studies of the occurrence of PFAS in New Jersey public water systems in 2006 and 2009. These were the first statewide studies of the occurrence of PFAS in drinking water in the U.S. PFOA was detected above the reporting level of 4-5 ng/L in raw or finished water in about 60% of the 54 public water systems tested in these studies, and PFOS was found in about 30%. In the 2009 study, PFNA was found in a Paulsboro drinking water well at the highest level that had been reported in drinking water worldwide, and an industrial source was later identified. These studies are reported in NJDEP reports (PFOA Study & PFC Study) and peer-reviewed publications by DSR scientists.
In 2007, DSR developed guidance for chronic (lifetime) exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water of 40 ng/L (0.04 ug/L) based on the health effects information that was then available and published the basis for this guidance in a peer-reviewed journal. This guidance value was much lower than other PFOA drinking water guidelines at the time, but it is similar to the drinking water guidelines that have since been established by USEPA and several other states.
NJDEP Drinking Water Standards
NJDEP has established drinking water standards (Maximum Contaminant Levels; MCLs) of 13 ng/L for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA; a nine carbon perfluorocarboxylate); 14 ng/L for PFOA, and 13 ng/L for PFOS. These MCLs were recommended to NJDEP by the New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI), an advisory body established in the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act to recommend drinking water standards to NJDEP. It is notable that the NJDEP MCL for PFNA that was adopted in 2018 was the first drinking water MCL for any PFAS in the United States. The MCLs were established as Ground Water Quality Standards by reference.
DSR provided scientific support for the development of these standards, including contributions to the human health risk assessments, analytical Practical Quantitation Levels, and evaluation of treatment removal technologies. The human health risk assessments include detailed evaluations of the available human epidemiology and laboratory animal toxicology data for these PFAS. The PFOS risk assessment was published in a peer-reviewed journal by DSR scientists, and New Jersey's evaluations of these PFAS have been used by other states in development of their own standards.
Brick, NJ PFAS Study
In 2010, DSR scientists, in collaboration with the affected public water system, Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority, conducted a trackdown study that is published in a peer-reviewed journal to identify the source of PFOA in the Metedeconk River, which is used as a drinking water source. The PFOA contamination in the Metedeconk River was originally detected in the 2009 NJDEP drinking water occurrence study. The likely source was identified as a small industrial facility that used materials containing PFOA to make industrial fabrics, composites, and elastomers.
Fish and PFAS Study
In 2015, DSR scientists conducted a statewide pilot study of 13 PFAS in fish, sediments, and surface water from 14 New Jersey waterbodies that were selected because they were potentially impacted by PFAS. The study was published in a peer-reviewed journal. The levels of PFOS found in fish tissue resulted in consumption advisories for almost all species at all sites, and levels of PFNA in fish tissue at a site near an industrial source exceeded the fish consumption advisory trigger level for PFNA. This study is ongoing.
The 2015 PFAS in fish tissue, sediment, and surface water study provided the initial PFAS concentration in three environmental media that supports early partitioning assessments. As a follow up, a Phase II study was implemented to evaluate a different set of potential sources, provide additional data to support the calculation of partitioning coefficients, and to assess other waterbodies for the application of additional fish consumption advisories, if warranted.
Current DSR Research
To further understand the partitioning between water and the fish tissue, DSR and the Division of Water Monitoring and Standards has contracted with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium to collect additional fish tissue and water samples in fresh waters and saline waters. This project is intended to collect sufficient data that can be used to calculate a New Jersey specific bioaccumulation factor that can help to understand surface water PFAS levels that are protective of human health and the environment.
NJDEP is currently investigating PFAS that have been used in New Jersey as alternatives for long-chain perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) such as PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA that have been phased out. DSR and the NJDEP Site Remediation Program, in collaboration with the USEPA Office of Research and Development, are investigating the fate, transport and occurrence in multiple environmental media of chloroperfluoropolyether carboxylates (ClPFPECA), alternatives for long-chain PFAAs used and discharged by a New Jersey industrial facility. So far, two peer-reviewed publications on this study have reported on ClPFPECAs in soil and in groundwater, including private wells.
Some information on the alternative PFAS used at this facility, including ClPFPECAs and another type of PFAS, dicarboxylic acid ether PFAS, has been made publicly available by the industrial user. This information includes Safety Data Sheets for each of the materials used, toxicology studies, and information on biomonitoring and health effects in workers at a European facility where ClPFPECAs are manufactured.
Post, G.B. (2022) Invited Perspective: Current Breast Milk PFAS Levels in the United States and Canada Indicate Need for Additional Monitoring and Actions to Reduce Maternal Exposures. Environ Health Perspect. 130(2):21301. Abstract.
Rovero, M., Cutt, D., Griffiths, R., Filipowicz, U., Mishkin, K., White, B., Goodrow, S. and Wilkin, R.T. (2021), Limitations of Current Approaches for Predicting Groundwater Vulnerability from PFAS Contamination in the Vadose Zone. Groundwater Monit R, 41: 62-75. Abstract
McCord, J.P., Strynar, M.J., Washington, J.W., Bergman, E.L., Goodrow, S.M. (2020). Emerging Chlorinated Polyfluorinated Polyether Compounds Impacting the Waters of Southwestern New Jersey Identified by Use of Nontargeted Analysis. Environmental Science & Technology Letters 2020 7 (12), 903-908 Abstract
Post, G.B. (2021), Recent US State and Federal Drinking Water Guidelines for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. Environ Toxicol Chem, 40: 550-563. Abstract
Washington, J. W., Rosal, C. G., McCord, J. P., Strynar, M. J., Lindstrom, A. B., Bergman, E. L., Goodrow, S. M., Tadesse, H. K., Pilant, A. N., Washington, B. J., Davis, M. J., Stuart, B. G., Jenkins, T. M. (2020). Nontargeted mass-spectral detection of chloroperfluoropolyether carboxylates in New Jersey soils. Science 368: 1103–1107. Abstract
Goodrow, S. M., Ruppel, B., Lippincott, R. L., Post, G. B., Procopio, N. A. (2020). Investigation of levels of perfluoroalkyl substances in surface water, sediment and fish tissue in New Jersey, USA. The Science of the total environment, 729, 138839. Abstract
Pachkowski, B., Post, G.B., Stern, A.H. (2019). The derivation of a Reference Dose (RfD) for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) based on immune suppression. Env. Research 171:452-469. Abstract
Post, G.B., Gleason, J.A., Cooper, K.R. (2017). Key scientific issues in developing drinking water guidelines for perfluoroalkyl acids: Contaminants of emerging concern. PLoS Biol. 15(12):e2002855. Abstract
Procopio, N.A., Karl, R., Goodrow, S.M., Maggio, J., Louis, J.B., Atherholt, T.B.. (2017). Occurrence and source identification of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) in the Metedeconk River Watershed, New Jersey. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 24:27125-27135. Abstract
Gleason, J.A., Post, G.B, and Fagliano, J.A. (2015). Associations of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) serum concentrations and select biomarkers of health in the US population (NHANES), 2007-2010 Env. Research 136: 8-14. Abstract
Post, G.B., Louis, J.B., Lippincott, R.L., and Procopio, N.A. (2013). Occurrence of perfluorinated chemicals in raw water from New Jersey public drinking water systems. Env. Sci. Technol. 47 (23):13266-75. Abstract
Post, G.B., Cohn, P.D., and Cooper, K.R. (2012). Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), an emerging drinking water contaminant: a critical review of recent literature. Env. Res. 116: 93-117. Abstract
Post, G.B., Louis, J.B., Cooper, K.R., Boros-Russo, B.J., and Lippincott, R.L. (2009). Occurrence and potential significance of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) detected in New Jersey public drinking water systems. Environ. Sci, Technol. 43: 4547–4554. Abstract
Safety Data Sheets and toxicology studies for alternative PFAS used by Solvay Specialty Polymers USA (Solvay) in West Deptford, NJ. These documents were submitted to NJDEP by Solvay, and Solvay has agreed to waive Confidential Business Information for the versions of these documents with trade names redacted that are posted at the link above.
Two types of alternative PFAS have been used, chloroperfluoropolyether carboxylates (ClPFPECAs) and perfluoropolyether dicarboxylic acids.