NJDEP Goes after 5 Chemical Companies for Millions of Dollars Due to Contamination
Trenton, NJ-Clean Water Action praised the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) announcement today identifying 5 chemical companies - Solvay, DuPont, Dow DuPont, Chemours and 3M - as "responsible for extensive contamination and directing them to fund millions of dollars in assessment and cleanup efforts."
At issue are PFAS, which stands for polyfluoroalkyl substances — a group of man-made, toxic chemicals including PFOA, PFOS and GenX that have been in everyday use for almost 80 years.
"It's great to see NJDEP going after these polluters to protect public health and the environment," stated Clean Water Action's David Pringle, who made the initial request for state action on PFAS chemicals over a decade ago as a member of NJDEP's Drinking Water Quality Institute. "Thanks especially to DuPont, who from the very beginning fought vigorously to avoid any responsibility for its own actions, it's taken too long, but has really sped up the past couple years. These polluters have been profiting from PFAS chemicals for years and now to need to pay for it - the cleanup, the natural resource damages, and pollution prevention. Making polluters pay is not only a matter of fundamental fairness but also a deterrent to future wrongful acts."
Nearly one in five New Jersey residents receive tap water that contains at least trace amounts of one of these chemicals, some of which have been linked to cancer. Among the products containing the chemicals are non-stick pans, polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and firefighting foams. Brand names that contain the chemicals include Stainmaster, Scotchgard, Teflon and Gore-Tex. The chemicals have contaminated drinking water systems nationwide, including many throughout New Jersey. They do not break down in the environment. NJDEP's directive is the first step toward compelling the companies to pay for what is anticipated to be a large-scale cleanup.
The new DEP directive lists why each company is responsible for New Jersey's contamination:
- 3M manufactured 85 percent of the world's PFOA and supplied the chemical to DuPont at its Chambers Works facility along the Delaware River in Salem County. 3M also supplied PFAS chemicals to Joint Base McGuire-Dix in Ocean County and the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City airport.
- DuPont/DowDuPont began using PFOA in the 1950s at Chambers Works to be used in fire-resistant and non-stick products. DuPont also accepted large quantities of PFOA waste from other manufacturing sites to process at its wastewater treatment plant at Chambers Works. The site and wells as far as 5 miles away are contaminated. DuPont also used PFOA at its Parlin Facility in Sayreville, in Middlesex County. Nearby wells in Perth Amboy are contaminated.
- Chemours, a DuPont spinoff company, is the current owner of the Chambers Works facility and assumed some of the liability for the contamination.
- Solvay, a Belgian chemical company, is the only company that New Jersey officials gave a cost estimate. The DEP wants Solvay to pay $3.1 million for the department's past efforts to investigate and clean up the chemicals at sites in Gloucester and Salem counties. The company released "massive amounts" of chemicals into the air and water.
Additional Background Information:
Clean Water Action has more than 150,000 members statewide in New Jersey and is the nation's largest grassroots group focused on water, energy and environmental health. Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration and Congress. www.cleanwater.org/nj