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Contaminants of Emerging Concern


Contaminants of Emerging Concern

Contaminants of emerging concern are those chemicals that recently have been shown to occur in water resources and identified as being a potential environmental or public health risk. New analytical capabilities have allowed scientists to identify chemicals in the environment in extremely low concentrations.

Contaminants of emerging concern are used every day in our homes, on our farms, or by businesses and industry. These compounds are found in every-day products as and include detergents, fragrances, prescription and nonprescription drugs, disinfectants, and pesticides.

To comply with the Technical Requirements for Site Remediation (N.J.A.C. 7:26E), all contamination, including all discharged hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, and pollutants, must be addressed. Contaminants of emerging concern, if discharged to the waters or onto lands of the State, are pollutants that must be remediated using a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP). When the remedial objective for a site is an entire site final remediation document and the site is currently or was formerly occupied by facilities that stored, handled, and used contaminants of emerging concern, LSRPs must consider these contaminants of concern during the investigation and remedial action. LSRPs must evaluate the site for potential spills and releases through air, water, and waste discharges.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances


Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have been used in a wide variety of industrial and commercial processes and products, including, but not limited to, electroplating and metal finishing (i.e., chromium plating), vapor/mist suppression, stain repellants, electronics, aerospace, automotive, insecticide/herbicides, adhesives/varnish/paints, as well as coatings for textiles such as fabric, rug, and paper.

Fluoropolymer manufacturing and facilities that used PFAS in industrial and commercial product manufacturing and fluorinated Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) are considered significant potential sources of PFAS. AFFF containing perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) based products have been used to extinguish petroleum hydrocarbon fires. AFFF contamination has been identified at many locations where AFFF products were stored and discharged, including, but not limited to, airports, spill/crash sites, firefighter training facilities, refineries, and bulk petroleum storage facilities.

The scientific understanding of the toxicity, fate and transport, health effects, and analytical capabilities of PFAS are continuing to advance. PFAS are man-made chemicals that contain carbon and fluorine atoms of various chain length. PFAS are mobile, persistent, and soluble in water. Certain PFAS can be toxic and bioaccumulate in fish and/or humans when discharged into the environment. These contaminants at low levels can cause adverse health effects, as they persist (bioaccumulate) in the body for many years.

For additional general information, please see the links in the Additional Resources section below.

PFAS Regulatory Criteria

Guidance and criteria are developed using assumptions that are protective for exposures over a lifetime.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA):

In 2007, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) issued a preliminary drinking water guidance level for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) of 40 nanograms per liter (ng/L), or 0.04 parts per billion (ppb). In October of 2017, NJDEP issued an updated drinking-water guidance value for PFOA and announced that the NJDEP would accept the Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) recommended health-based maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 14 parts per trillion (ppt), which is equivalent to 14 ng/L or 0.014 g/L. DWQI is an advisory body to NJDEP responsible for recommending MCLs in drinking water.

For more information, visit: Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) in Drinking Water.

Perfluorononanoic Acid (PFNA):

In July 2015, DWQI recommended a health-based MCL for PFNA of 13 ng/L (0.013 g/L), which served as the basis for an interim specific ground water quality standard for PFNA of 0.01 g/L, which is equivalent to 10 ng/L or 0.01 ppb, established by NJDEP November 25, 2015. The interim specific ground water quality standard was replaced by a permanent, specific ground water quality standard of the same value (0.01 g/L) under amendments to the Ground Water Quality Standards rules promulgated on January 16, 2018. Concurrent adoption of amendments to the Discharge of Petroleum and Other Hazardous Substances rules added PFNA to the List of Hazardous Substances. For more information, visit: Ground Water Quality Standards (GWQS).

On August 7, 2017, NJDEP proposed amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act Rules that include establishing a new MCL for PFNA of 0.013 g/L (13 ng/L).

Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOS):

In May 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued a Drinking Water Health Advisory for PFOA and PFOS at 70 ng/L (0.070 ppb) individually or a total of the two compounds when both compounds are found.

In November 2017, DWQI published draft recommendations for a health-based MCL for PFOS of 13 ng/L. Details of the status of the DWQI evaluations can be found at: New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute.

Additional Resources

General Information:

Some manufacturers that used the long-chain PFAS have replaced these chemicals with shorter-chained PFAS. For more information, please see:

Health information for PFAS:

Other Resources: