PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 03, 2012

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

DHSS Releases Health Assessment for Pohatcong Valley for Public Comment

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) today released a health assessment that evaluates public health implications of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination in groundwater at the Valley Groundwater Contamination Superfund Site in Warren County for public comment.   The site includes portions of Franklin Township, Washington Township and Washington Boro.

The assessment indicates that impacts on public health differ depending on whether water is supplied from a public water source, from private wells with filtering systems in place or from private wells where filtering is not taking place.

The assessment concludes that exposure to PCE and TCE is not a public health concern if drinking water is from the public water supply or from private wells equipped with Point-of-Entry-Treatment (POET) systems, which filters the water entering the household. 

There are health concerns relating to PCE and TCE exposure from private wells without POET systems installed. Additionally, there are concerns for approximately 48 residences that used private wells that were exposed to TCE contaminated groundwater prior to their connection to public water services in 1981 or the installation of POET systems, which occurred from 2002 through 2010.   The report concluded that for these residences exposure to TCE posed a low increase in risk of cancer and could contribute to birth defects.

The assessment also concludes that exposure to surface water within the Pohatcong and Shabbecong Creeks are not expected to impact public health; and current indoor air exposure to PCE and TCE is not a public health concern. 

In 1977 and 1978 analysis of groundwater from two public water supply wells within the Pohatcong Valley indicated the regional groundwater was contaminated with PCE and TCE.  The source of the contamination is believed to originate from one or more industrial facilities/commercial businesses operating within the Borough of Washington. 

Investigations from 1984 through 2010 by the Warren County Health Department, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) indicated that domestic groundwater wells for a number of residences had PCE and/or TCE levels above the state drinking water standards.  This prompted the NJDEP to connect participating residents with either public water service or have POET systems installed.  Based on the amount of TCE and PCE contamination in the groundwater the site was designated as a superfund site in March 1989.  

Report recommendations include:

The US EPA should continue its efforts to identify residences that are either not connected to the public water supply or do not have POET systems installed.  Once identified the residences should be evaluated to determine if contaminants are present.  Homeowners should consider installing a POET system or being connected to the public water supply.

 

  • - The NJDEP should continue to ensure that installed POET systems at affected residences are properly operated and maintained.

 

  • - The US EPA should continue to study ways to provide a permanent solution to address contaminated drinking water for residences which can be supplied public water.

 

  • - The US EPA should continue to study ways to eliminate the discharge of contaminants to the Pohatcong and Shabbecong Creeks.

 

The full health assessment and summary may be viewed online at:

http://www.nj.gov/health/ceohs/

The Public Comment Period will extend from May 3, 2012 to June 3, 2012. Comments may be submitted to the following address:

Environmental and Occupational Health Surveillance Program

New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services

Consumer, Environmental and Occupational Health Service

P.O. Box 369

Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0369