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Carcinogenic Chemical in Water Concerns Officials

Preparing for meeting on hard water issues, Deputy Mayor Vic Sordillo makes unsettling discovery.

Before meeting with representatives of NJ American Water to discuss the problems some residents are having with hard water, Deputy Mayor Vic Sordillo did a little checking on the company and its water sources.

Information he found on the DEP's website revealed wells operated by the company had levels perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA, at or near recently set guidelines. The DEP's website says "PFOA is used to make fluropolymers-substances with special properties used in many industrial applications, including the manufacture of consumer products such as non-stick cookware and all-weather clothing."

But Sordillo is more concerned with PFOA's toxicity: recent studies have linked even limited exposure to the chemical to testicular and kidney cancers.

"I want to make sure my residents are protected," he said.

The DEP provided Sordillo with NJ American Water test results from the Raritan watershed supply, which provides much of Warren's water supply, revealed levels of the chemical near the 0.04 parts per billion level that is considered a guideline level for the company.

PFOA is not currently listed as a contaminant that the company would have to remove, and company officials pointed out the figure in the report is the highest level of the chemical to show up in tests during the course of a year.

"It could be 10 parts per trillion one time, 50 parts the next time, five parts the next two times," Vince Monaco, manager of asset planning, said. "The report is the highest level reported during the year."

But the representative also asked to have an opportunity to look into the PFOA test results and get back to the township officials. They noted that while it is from a source of water associated with Warren's supply, that's not to say the level was found in water headed here.

Sordillo worried that any levels of PFOA may be too high, recalling the long-term effects of small exposures to asbestos, which can lead to mesothelioma even 30 years after exposure.

"We have children drinking the water and we don't want them as adults to find out this (recommended guidelines for PFOA) was too low," he said.

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