Middlesex Water Co. insisted that its supply to some 29,000 residents is safe and that there’s no reason for it to provide alternative sources like bottled water even though water from part of its system contains a toxic “forever chemical” at above a new state health limit for drinking water.
At a public meeting Monday night, the utility’s president, Dennis Doll, defended his decision not to pay for bottled water, install filters, or pump from other sources, saying there’s no threat to public health despite the company’s recent discovery that the presence of a chemical known as PFOA exceeds a maximum contaminant limit implemented last year by the Department of Environmental Protection.
“If this were truly a health emergency, an acute threat that posed an immediate health risk, we would pay for filters, we would pay for bottled water, we would do what it takes to keep our customers safe,” Doll said. “But at the levels we’re talking about, we do not believe this is an immediate health risk.”
Confusion over whether the water is safe to drink prompted the mayors of Woodbridge, Metuchen, South Plainfield and Edison to hire a consultant to advise them on how to proceed. Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said the town leaders want to make sure they understand what both the DEP and Middlesex Water are saying.
“We’re not going to get in the middle of it but our residents are going to ask us questions and we want to be able to answer them with the answer from our expert,” McCormac said in an interview with NJ Spotlight News.
McCormac said the towns decided to hire a consultant for that outside perspective, not because they didn’t trust either the company or the DEP.
“They are coming at it from two different angles,” McCormac said. “One’s a private company, the other is a government. We just want to be able to tell our residents that we understand the issues, and the only way that can happen is if we have our own person explaining the issues to us.”
The consultant will help determine if residents need to buy bottled water or install filtration systems, McCormac said. “I just want them to have the facts.”
Notice sent last week
On Friday, the company issued a required “notice of exceedance” to residents of six towns in Middlesex and Union counties — South Plainfield, Edison, Metuchen, Woodbridge, Clark and Rahway.
The letter advised that test results in September showed water from a South Plainfield treatment plant contained the chemical at levels above the state’s new limit of 14 parts per trillion — which DEP has determined is the safe limit for human consumption over a lifetime.
The notice drew dozens of people to a meeting at Colonia High School where many said they were fearful of the health consequences of drinking water that contains the chemical outside a regulatory limit, and were struggling to reconcile the company’s assurances that the water is