PFAS

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Public Water Customers

Your public water utility regularly tests for water quality. You can access your utility’s water quality information through the Drinking Water Watch website. This is a database that is searchable by water system ID number, system name, or (if you don't know the ID number or name) by county and municipality, to identify all systems serving that area. Information on which utilities serve your area can also be found here. You can obtain background information about the water system, the facilities it has, water monitoring schedules, a wide variety of water quality information, and enforcement data (violations; site visits by regulators; compliance inspections).

Learn how to access more information on your water quality on the Division of Water Supply and Geoscience website.

How does PFAS get in my drinking water?

PFAS can enter drinking water through discharges from industrial facilities where they are made or used, release of aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) during training or firefighting, effluent and land-applied biosolids (sludge) from wastewater treatment plants, and leachate from landfills where industrial waste or consumer products are disposed. Although the use of PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA has decreased substantially, contamination is expected to continue indefinitely because these substances are extremely persistent in the environment and are soluble and mobile in water.

What actions has NJDEP taken?

NJDEP has adopted rule amendments to

  • Establish drinking water maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA;
  • Expand testing of private wells subject to sale or lease for PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA under the Private Well Testing Act (PWTA);
  • Establish specific ground water quality standards for PFOA, and PFOS, and PFNA;
  • Add PFOA, and PFOS, and PFNA to New Jersey’s List of Hazardous Substances; and
  • Expand the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) permit application testing requirements/pollutant listings and requirements for discharges to ground water to include PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA.

What are the MCLs for PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA and what do they mean?

Contaminant MCL
PFOA 0.014 μg/l*
PFOS 0.013 μg/l*
PFNA 0.013 μg/l*
*micrograms per liter, μg/l (or parts per billion, ppb)

An MCL is the highest allowable concentration of a contaminant in water delivered to a user of a public drinking water supply. MCLs apply to public water systems, including public community and public nontransient noncommunity water systems. Public community and public nontransient noncommunity water systems are required to routinely monitor for contaminants for which MCLs have been established and to take any action necessary to bring the water into compliance with an MCL.

How is NJDEP implementing the PFAS MCLs?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of manmade chemicals that have been used in industrial and commercial applications for many decades. Ongoing research confirms that these chemicals, which are long-lasting in the environment and accumulate in the human body over many years, can present health concerns for the public over time. Since human health effects are associated with even low-level exposures to PFOA and PFOS, it is important to minimize exposure from drinking water.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is a national leader in assessing and responding to environmental and public health risks presented by PFAS and is committed to protecting public health by assisting PFAS-impacted drinking water systems take necessary steps to install treatment and provide timely information to customers. The DEP has adopted drinking water standards, known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs)  for three PFAS: Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA). The MCLS apply to: community and non-community non-transient water systems.

  • A community water system has at least 15 service connections that are used year-round, or regularly serves at least twenty-five residents year-round. Examples of a community water system are mobile home communities and municipalities.
  • A non-transient non-community water system serves at least twenty-five of the same people over a period of six months during the year and  include schools, factories, and office buildings that are not served by a public community system.

Testing requirements:

  • PFOA and PFOS: Under regulations adopted by DEP in 2020,  quarterly monitoring for PFOA and PFOS has been required for public community water systems and non-transient non-community  water systems since Jan. 1, 2021. Monitoring for PFNA has been required for community water systems serving  10,000 people or less with groundwater.
  • PFNA: Under regulations adopted in 2019, monitoring for PFNA has been required for community water systems serving  10,000 people or less with groundwater and non-transient non-community water systems January 1, 2019. Testing requirements for all other community water systems started January 1, 2020.

The DEP is actively maintaining a list of impacted public community and non-transient non-community water systems to keep the public informed on the progress and results of MCL compliance, testing and mitigation work. As of January 21, 2022, 34 community water systems and 40 non-transient non-community water systems have had MCL violations for PFNA, PFOA, and/or PFOS. Compliance is based on a running average of quarterly samples taken over the course of one year for each contaminant. Samples are taken at the point of entry within a regulated system, namely treatment plants and/or wells. Systems appearing on the list have had at least one treatment plant or well experience an MCL violation for a regulated PFAS.

Monitoring, analysis, quality assurance and evaluation of results of sampling is ongoing. Any resident who is served by a public water system with an MCL violation should receive a  Tier 2 (Non-Acute) Public Notification from their water system within 30 days of the violation being determined. From the date that the DEP determines an MCL violation has occurred, public water systems have one year to return to compliance (i.e., installing treatment). Systems may elect to take interim measures, shut as shutting off wells, however until a permanent solution has been reached, water systems are required to continually issue Tier 2 Public Notice on a frequency determined by the DEP.

DEP Assistance Resources

  • DEP has a section within its Division of Water Supply & Geoscience that serves to provide compliance assistance to public water systems that have incurred MCL violations. This group helps guide water systems through the regulatory steps needed to return to compliance. Note that NJ’s Safe Drinking Water Act Rules require a return to compliance within one year.
  • Financial resources are available to community water systems and nonprofit noncommunity water systems with PFAS through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) loan program. For more information on the Water Bank loan program, see https://www.state.nj.us/dep/dwq/mface_njeifp.htm. Interested systems can also contact the Bureau of Water System Engineering at (609) 292-2957.
  • Public water systems that document that they have been damaged by discharges of PFAS may be eligible for funding by filing a claim with the Spill Compensation Fund. Please see the Processing of Damage Claims Pursuant to the Spill Compensation and Control Act rules, N.J.A.C. 7:1J (http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/rules/njac7_1j.pdf) for eligibility requirements or contact the NJDEP-Environmental Claims Administration at  609-984-2076 or visit its website at https://www.nj.gov/dep/srp/finance/eca.htm

Private Well Owners

In March 2001, the New Jersey Private Well Testing Act (PWTA) was signed into law, and its regulations became effective in September 2002. The law’s requirements pertain to real estate sales and rental properties with private wells. The test data is submitted electronically by the test laboratories to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for retention, notifying health department of water quality issues, and statewide analysis of groundwater quality.

As of December 1, 2021 PFOA, PFOS, and PFNA is a testing requirement under the New Jersey Private Well Testing Act.

Real Estate Sales and Water Testing
The PWTA requires that, prior to closing of the title for a real estate sale, properties with potable wells in New Jersey have untreated groundwater tested for a variety of water quality parameters, including up to 32 human health concern.

Rental Properties and Water Testing
Landlords are also required to test their well water once every five years and to provide each tenant with a copy of the test results.

Well Owners and Water Testing
You must test your well when required by the NJ PWTA for certain required parameters. If you own a property with a private well, it is also recommended to test your private well drinking water at the recommended intervals below:

  • Every year (at least): Total coliform, nitrates, and pH
  • Every five years: Lead, VOCs, arsenic, iron, and manganese
  • At least once: Mercury, gross alpha, and uranium

Labs certified to test for PFAS can be found on the NJDEP Data Miner.

How To Treat Water at Your Home
To reduce the level of PFAS in drinking water, you can install granular activated carbon filters or reverse osmosis water treatment devices. If a treatment is used, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance and operation. NSF International, an independent and accredited organization, certifies products proven effective for reducing PFAS. (http://info.nsf.org/Certified/DWTU/).

More Information
Additional Resources
  • USEPA’s PFAS website
  • NJDEP’s Private Well Testing Act Resources for Certified Laboratories
  • NJDEP Regulatory Documents for PFAS MCLs:
  • Drinking Water Quality Institute Recommendations for PFAS:
    • Perfluorooctane Sulfonate pdf (PFOS) Recommendation (June 2018)
      • Appendix A pdf – Health-Based Maximum Contaminant Level Support Document for PFOS
      • Appendix B pdf – Report on the Development of a Practical Quantitation Level for PFOS in Drinking Water
      • Appendix C pdf – Second Addendum to Appendix C: Recommendation on Perfluorinated Compound Treatment Options for Drinking Water
      • Appendix D pdf – Responses to Comments on DWQI Health Effects Subcommittee Report: “Public Review Draft - Health-Based Maximum Contaminant Level Support Document: PFOS
    • Perfluorooctanoic Acid pdf (PFOA) Recommendation (March 2017)
      • Appendix A pdf – Health-Based Maximum Contaminant Level Support Document for PFOA
      • Appendix B pdf – Report on the Development of a Practical Quantitation Level for PFOA in Drinking Water
      • Appendix C pdf – Addendum to Appendix C: Recommendation on Perfluorinated Compound Treatment Options for Drinking Water
      • Appendix D pdf – Responses to Comments on DWQI Health Effects Subcommittee Report: “Public Review Draft - Health-Based Maximum Contaminant Level Support Document: PFOA
    • Perfluorononanoic Acid pdf  (PFNA) Recommendation (July 2015)
      • Appendix A pdf – Health-Based Maximum Contaminant Level Support Document: PFNA
      • Appendix B pdf – Report on the development of a Practical Quantitation Level for PFNA
      • Appendix C pdf – Recommendation on Perfluorinated Compound Treatment Options for Drinking Water