Paulsboro residents warned of contaminated water

Residents of Paulsboro, New Jersey are being warned about chemicals that have contaminated their drinking water.
March 14, 2014 3:15:45 PM PDT
Residents of Paulsboro, New Jersey are being warned about chemicals that have contaminated their drinking water.

Residents have been advised to use bottled water instead of tap water for children under the age of one. The mayor is calling on Solvay to clean up their act, and clean up Paulsboro's water.

Home videos show Melissa Hazelton and her family using stockpiles of bottled water for everything from brushing their teeth to cooking.

"How do I know that 10 years from now they're not going to come to me and say 'Oh these levels of PFC's are going to cause your child to have cancer, hyperthyroidism, leukemia,'" said Hazelton.

The concern is about perfluorinated compounds or PFCs. It's an emerging contaminate that is currently unregulated, but has been recognized by the EPA as a potentially dangerous chemical.

In 2009 Paulsboro's water first tested positive for PFCs. However it wasn't until 2013 that the public was notified and more tests were taken under Mayor Jeffery Hamilton.

"They are concerned and I am concerned for them as well as the mayor," said Mayor Hamilton.

The results showed PFC contamination has climbed in the borough's primary well since 2009.

Late last year the city wells tested positive for a range of various PFCs including PFNA.

The question - were the chemicals seeping into the aquifer from the nearby plastics manufacturer, Solvay Specialty Polymers, which is located about two miles away?

"Everything leads right to them. There is nothing else I can say, nobody else uses those chemicals around that use those chemicals that they use," said Mayor Hamilton.

Solvay has been cooperating with state and local authorities and as a precaution has also started handing out bottled water, one case a week for families with a child under the age of one.

However the company sent Action News a statement saying in part, "No one has determined that Solvay is a source of PFCs that have been found in Paulsboro. Also, Solvay does not admit that it is a source of the substances found in Paulsboro's water system."

The company has also denied liability for any legal claims.

"We have a level of confidence that when we open up the tap, that water is safe. Well the people of Paulsboro don't have that confidence," said Alan Sklarsky, attorney.

Sklarsky has sued Solvay and its predecessor on behalf of Hazelton and other clients who believe they may be impacted by years of drinking potentially contaminated water.

"They really haven't said much of anything to us, no apologies," said Hazelton.

Hazelton has taken to buying between five and six cases of bottled water for her family every week.

The Paulsboro wells recently show levels four times above what the DEP recommends for safe water.

"Well the one case a week that Solvay is offering won't cover much and I'm not going to take a chance, it's worth the price for my family's safety," said Hazelton.

Now neighboring communities are starting to test their water for PFCs.

Solvay is expected to meet with the mayor and the DEP early next week and issue a working plan to start resolving these issues.


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