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New Jersey is Making Companies Pay for Toxic Contamination–Shining a New Light on a Little-Known Offender

Illustration: Soohee Cho/The Intercept

NEW JERSEY IS MAKING COMPANIES PAY FOR TOXIC CONTAMINATION — SHINING A NEW LIGHT ON A LITTLE-KNOWN OFFENDER

NEW JERSEY LAID financial responsibility for dealing with PFAS contamination squarely at the feet of the chemical companies responsible for it. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection issued a directive on Monday ordering five companies to pay the costs of dealing with the toxic chemicals that have been associated with numerous health problems, including cancer. The companies include 3M, which created both PFOA and PFOS; DuPont, the chemical giant that used PFOA to make Teflon since the 1950s at the now massively contaminated plant Chambers Works; and DuPont’s spinoff, Chemours.

Monitoring, research, and cleanup of the chemicals, which the state has already begun, is likely to ultimately total “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to the order.

The hefty price tag reflects the state’s serious PFAS problem. New Jersey is thought to be one of the states most contaminated with these chemicals.

The hefty price tag reflects the state’s serious PFAS problem. New Jersey is thought to be one of the states most contaminated with these chemicals. Seventy percent of drinking water samples taken from 20 of New Jersey’s 21 counties contained at least one compound from the class of chemicals, according to research done in 2009 and 2010. And, last year, another state study showed that all surface water samples taken from 11 waterways and ecosystems around New Jersey contained PFAS. All the fish found there contained the chemicals as well. The state is also home to military bases that have been contaminated by firefighting foam, as well as several industrially polluted sites.

The order also announced the state’s intention to propose the lowest drinking water limits in the country for both PFOS and PFOA on April 1.

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