Trenton – Acting to keep residents informed about the purity levels of public water systems, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee today advanced legislation sponsored by Senators Linda Greenstein and Bob Smith that would require public water systems and landlords to provide notice of elevated perlfuoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) levels in drinking water.
“PFAS” are man-made chemical compounds widely used in consumer products to repel oil, water, and grease. The byproducts of PFAS can have serious health effects including high cholesterol, liver damage, and increased risk of cancer. Commonly referred to as the “forever chemicals,” PFAS accumulates within bloodstream and can be passed down through pregnancy.
“Ridding our water systems entirely of PFAS is our long-term goal,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “But while we work towards that goal, families deserve to know whether their drinking water is safe. This legislation is vital in providing families with the knowledge they need to reduce their exposure to these harmful chemicals and safeguard their health.”
The bill, S-3179, would require a public water system that exceeds a PFAS maximum contaminant level (MCL) to provide written notice to all customers served by the water system. The bill would also require the notice to be sent within thirty calendar days after the water system confirms an exceedance of the maximum PFAS levels. Under the bill, the water system would then be required to provide annual written notifications to all affected customers until PFAS levels fall below the maximum level.
“Our fight against PFAS requires more time and data in order to implement permanent solutions. However, currently, the most effective weapons in our possession to combat these dangerous chemicals are education and limitation,” said Senator Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset), Chair of the Committee. “Keeping residents informed about PFAS levels provides them with the knowledge and choice of limiting water usage or purchasing in-home water filters.”
The measure would also direct any landlord that receives notice of the presence of PFAS from a public water system to post and distribute the notice to every tenant within three business days after receipt. However, the bill would exempt landlords of tenants who are direct customers of public water systems and are billed directly by the system.
Additionally, the bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish and publish an educational program on the DEP’s website concerning the health impacts of PFAS in drinking water. The program would be updated annually.
Senators Greenstein and Smith have also introduced legislation, S-3177, the “Protecting Against Forever Chemicals Act,” to monitor and prevent the sale of products containing intentionally added PFAS in the State. While this bill awaits a committee vote to move forward, a third bill, S-3176, which would require the DEP to study the feasibility of establishing a maximum contaminant level for the entire class of PFAS rather than each individual substance, was released from the Senate Environment and Energy Committee in November.
The bill was released from committee with a vote of 5-0.