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Persistent Pollutants

New Jersey cracks down on PFAS pollution from chemical companies

First-ever state action orders Chemours, DowDuPont, Solvay, and 3M to pay for investigation and cleanup

by Cheryl Hogue, with reporting by Marc Reisch
March 25, 2019

Photo shows satellite view of the Chambers Works industrial site in Deepwater, New Jersey, the Delaware River, and the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
Credit: Google
Regulators say the former DuPont Chambers Works in Deepwater, New Jersey, now owned by Chemours, continues to discharge PFAS.

In a precedent-setting action, New Jersey is directing Chemours, DowDuPont, Solvay, and 3M to pay millions of dollars to investigate and clean up poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pollution in the state.

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection says its move marks the first time a state has cracked down on chemical manufacturers that formerly made, formerly released, or still emit PFAS.

“Now is the time for action at the state level” on PFAS pollution, says New Jersey environmental protection commissioner Catherine R. McCabe. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s recently announced action plan to address PFAS contamination will take years to implement, she notes.

The New Jersey agency says it believes the four companies are responsible for significant PFAS contamination in the state. Surface water, groundwater, sediments, soils, air, fish, plants, and other natural resources in New Jersey are tainted with PFAS from operations of Chemours, DowDuPont, and Solvay, it says. The agency is targeting 3M because it was the primary US manufacturer of perfluorooctanoic acid for decades and supplied this substance to Solvay and former DuPont facilities in the state. 3M also made fire-fighting foam with PFAS that taints drinking water near federal facilities in New Jersey, the department says.

The companies knew, or should have known, the health and environmental hazards of these persistent chemicals, the department says. Scientific studies suggest that some PFAS may cause health problems.

Under a March 25 legal directive, New Jersey is requiring the companies to meet collectively with state officials in the next month to discuss establishing a fund to pay for identifying and treating PFAS contamination. The state is also ordering the chemical makers to provide information on current and past use and on release of PFAS and sales of products containing these chemicals.

The directive singles out Solvay to reimburse the state $3.1 million for work already done to investigate and clean up PFAS around the company’s facility in West Deptford. That plant’s manufacture of polyvinylidene fluoride plastic “discharged massive amounts” of perfluorononanoic acid into air and water between about 1990 and 2012, the directive says. This facility is also responsible for PFOA pollution, it says.

“We will hold these companies accountable and insist that they step up to address the problem they have created,” says McCabe. The chemical companies—not New Jersey residents—should pay for the investigation and remediation of PFAS, she says.

Chemours and Solvay say they are working with New Jersey on the matter. Solvay says it “will respond to the department appropriately.” 3M did not respond before C&EN’s deadline.


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