The Department of Environmental Protection today delayed adopting a drinking water standard for the chemical perchlorate, saying New Jersey should act after the federal government completes its comprehensive scientific analysis and makes its determinations on a national health-based standard.
Today was the deadline for DEP Acting Commissioner Bob Martin to sign proposed regulations that would have set a perchlorate standard of 5 parts per billion for New Jersey's water providers. The rule proposed that public water systems test for perchlorate and install treatment systems if levels exceed this standard.
"I carefully weighed all the scientific evidence and potential economic impacts, and discussed this at great length with the experts at the federal Environmental Protection Agency as well as DEP's experts," Commissioner Martin said. "I simply was not convinced that we had the most complete data on what the appropriate levels should be, given the fact that the EPA will be deciding whether to regulate perchlorate and at what level this summer. The EPA has the most up-to-date scientific information. We want to avail ourselves of the significant science emerging at the national level, so I decided to wait and get this decision right. Once we have all the data, a decision will be made."
The EPA has been studying the issue of drinking water standards for perchlorate for a number of years, gathering public input and working with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council. The EPA is considering standards for perchlorate ranging from 15 parts per billion to as low as 2 parts per billion.
The EPA currently has a guidance protocol that allows water suppliers to sample for perchlorate. This protocol recommends suppliers treat for perchlorate if levels are 15 parts per billion or higher.
The DEP is performing studies to track down possible sources of the chemical in the environment. Most perchlorate manufactured in this country was used as an ingredient in solid fuel for rockets and missiles. Perchlorate-based chemicals are also used in safety flares, fireworks, matches and some lubricating oils. It is also found in some fertilizers.
New Jersey's proposed rule would have also required owners of properties with private wells to add perchlorate to the list of contaminants they must test for during real estate transactions as required by state law.