NEW: NSF 53 - PFOA/PFOS Under Sink Filter
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PFAS: The Invisible “Forever Chemicals” Building Up In Your Body

Slides from the Ridgewood Water PFAS/PFOA Presentation

NOTICE: Ridgewood Water Customers

A mailer has recently been sent to residents concerning PFAS/PFOA contamination to affected NJ areas. If you have not received this information, click to view the information and continue reading below.


  • Introduction - Dan Timmeny, Business Manager, Ridgewood Water
  • How the System Works - Bill Bierwas, Assistant Superintendent, Ridgewood Water
  • What are PFAS? - Bill Bierwas, Assistant Superintendent, Ridgewood Water
  • How RW Plans to Treat/PFAS Master Plan - Earl Schneider, Mott MacDonald
  • Health Effects, Safety, and Filtration - Danielle Pagani, Village of Ridgewood Department of Health
  • What is RW Doing from a Legal Perspective to Hold Certain Parties Responsible and Attempt to Recoup Costs? - Stephanie Biehl, Sher Edling LLP
  • Q & A
  • Closing Remarks - Richard Calbi, Director, Ridgewood Water
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

Summary of RW Systems

  • ~60,000 customers
  • 52 wells across 4 towns
  • 1,751 fire hydrants
  • 5,794 valves
  • 10 water storage tanks
  • 295 miles of water main
  • 2 active interconnections, 10 emergency interconnections
  • 2021 is RW's 100th anniversary
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

Background - Sources of Supply

  • 52 Groundwater Wells
    • RW's groundwater wells account for more than 90% of the water in the system


  • 2 current, 1 future source of purchased water
    • Currently, purchased water from Suez and Hawthorne accounts for 10% of the water in the system
    • An interconnection with Passaic Valley Water Commission will be operational ~fall 2022
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

Background - What Are PFAS?

  • Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, of which there are hundreds of compounds including PFOA, PFOS & PFNA.
  • Man-made chemicals that have been used for fire fighting and to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food, and other materials that are resistant to water, grease, or stains.
  • Widespread and extremely persistent in the environment.
  • PFAS-related Notification Supplements mailed to all customers in 2018 and 2021, along with several in-person and virtual Open Houses to discuss the issue.
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

PFAS Regulatory History in NJ

  • US EPA Sets Health Advisory at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS combined in May 2016
    • Federal standard remains the same today


  • NJDEP has established much more conservative Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for 3 individual PFAS compounds:
    • Perfluorononamoic acid (PFNA) - standard of 13 parts per trillion (ppt) adopted September 2018
    • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) - standard of 14 parts per trillion (ppt) adopted June 2020
    • Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) - standard of 13 parts per trillion (ppt) adopted June 2020
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

Recent Notice of PFAS Levels Above Drinking Water Standards

See notice above this slideshow
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

PFAS Master Plan

  • Ridgewood Water retained engineering firm Matt MacDonald to prepare a master plan to proactively evaluate how treatment could be provided cost-effectively and on an accelerated schedule.
  • As part of the master plan, an interim strategy was developed to reduce the amount of PFAS in the water supply while treatment is being designed and constructed, Two main drivers of this operational strategy:
    • Prioritizing the use of wells with lowest levels of PFAS
    • Purchased water from Suez and Passaic Valley Water Commission (PVWC), primarily surface water sources, contain lower levels of PFAS
  • Master plan evaluated installation of treatment at existing 31 points of entry versus centralizing the installation of treatment at 12 points of entry
  • Master plan was completed by Mott Macdonald in May 2020 and adopted by the Village Council as governing strategy for PFAS remediation in November 2020
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

PFAS Master Plan - Evaluating GAC vs. Resin

  • Many full-scale drinking water installations
  • Good PFAS capacity, removal by adsorption
  • Removes organics (e.g. VOCs) and other co-contaminants
  • GAC can be reactivated or incinerated
  • GAC source materials
    • Bituminous coal
    • Coconut shell
    • Lignite
    • Wood
  • Newer technology for PFAS removal/faster kinetics, limited full-scale installations
  • Higher PFAS capacity, removal by ion exchange and adsorption
  • PFAS selective, limited co-contaminant removal
  • Resins are single use (for drinking water) and is incinerated
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

PFAS Treatment - Centralization

ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

PFAS - Studies on Adverse Health Effects

  • PFAS: Increased serum cholesterol, some liver enzymes, and uric acid levels
  • PFOS: Increased serum cholesterol and uric acid levels
  • PFOA and PFOS have been associated with decreased antibody response following vaccinations
  • In a community with extensive exposure to PFOA through drinking water, PFOA exposure was associated with higher rates of kidney and testicular cancers.
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

PFAS - Adverse Health Effects in Children

  • Exposure to PFAS before birth or in early childhood may result in decreased birth weight, decreased immune responses, and hormonal effects later in life.
  • Infants and children consume more water per body weight than older individuals, so their exposures may be higher than adults in communities with PFAS in drinking water
  • When PFAS are high in a drinking water supply, it is encouraged to use bottled water to prepare infant formula for bottle-fed babies
    • This includes other beverages (i.e., juice made from concentrate)
  • Pregnant, nursing, and women considering having children may choose to use home water filters or bottled water for drinking and cooking to reduce exposure to PFAS in their water
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

Background of Standard Levels

  • New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute develops the standards for hazardous contaminants in drinking water and for recommending those standards to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP)
  • Within the Institute:
    • Health Effects Subcommittee
    • Testing Subcommittee
    • Treatment Subcommittee
  • In 2014, NJDEP Commissioner requested that the Institute recommend Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perflourononamoic acid (PFNA), and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)
  • In 2018, NJ became the first state to establish a drinking water standard for a PFAS chemical when it set a MCL for PFNA, at 13 parts per trillion (ppt)
  • NJDEP also established MCLs for PFOA (14 ppt) and PFOS (13 ppt)
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

Health Effects Committee

  • A Health-based MCL for PFOA was developed using a risk assessment approach in order to protect the public for their lifetime drinking water exposure
  • Both non-cancer and cancer causing effects were evaluated for Health-based MCL development
    • Delayed mammary gland development and increased liver weight
  • Mice were exposed to PFOA for 14 days
    • A Health-based MCL protective for increased relative liver weight was developed based on this study
  • A cancer risk factor was developed based on an increased number of testicular tumors found in a chronic rat study
  • Due to these studies, a health-based MCL of 14 parts per trillion (ppt) became the standard
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

Exposure to PFAS

  • Exposure to PFAS is primarily through consumption
  • Exposure to PFAS through other household uses like showering, bathing, laundry and dishwashing is not significant
  • If tap or well water is found to contain PFAS, options at home include:
    • Install home water filters
    • Use bottled water for drinking and cooking
  • PFAS CANNOT be removed from water by boiling!
  • For any questions about health concerns potentially associated with PFAS levels measured in the water, please consult your healthcare provider
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

In-Home Filtration Techniques

  • Granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration, reverse osmosis, or a combination of the two reduce levels of PFAS
  • NSF International (National Sanitation Foundation) has certified certain home use drinking water treatment units that reduce PFOA and PFOS, but keep in mind that certifications of PFAS reductions may only be to EPA Health Advisory level of 70 ppt
  • To learn more:
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page

RW's PFAS Litigation

  • Defendants
    • PFAS manufacturers
    • AFFF manufacturers
  • Cost recovery
  • The litigation landscape
    • Case progress
ridgewood water municipality new jersey pfoa pfas contamination presentation slideshow page
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The 4,711+ molecules leaching into your life, family, pets, cookware, clothes, the ground you walk on, the air you breathe, and the water you drink.

You can’t see it. You can’t taste it.

And it’s affecting 97% of the US population.

As the sun approaches the horizon, you hear the alarm on your nightstand. You place both of your feet on the floor and begin your morning ritual.

You also hear your kids dragging themselves into the kitchen with lethargic footsteps.

Following them shortly to prepare breakfast…

While the aroma of egg and pancake mix permeates the air, you reach for your spatula. As you slide it underneath the cooked food, you hear that familiar scraping sound on the bottom of the pan. Which is secretly bringing a hidden danger with it.

When you scratch the surface of your cookware. Even with the lightest touch, you are creating friction. In turn, breaking off microscopic pieces of the non-stick lining. One of the most common being Teflon coating. Also known as, PTFE with traces of PFOA/C8, in the manufacturing process.

Where are PFAS found?

PFOA/C8, PFOS, etc. and the newer, more sinister version GENX (more on this later), are part of a class of PFAS chemicals used in thousands of everyday products.
PFAS stands for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and the majority consist of 8 Carbon atoms, attached to Fluorine, among other atoms. Fig 1 shows the signature 8 Carbon (C) atoms PFOA molecule. Attached to Fluorine (F) and the functional group Oxygen (O) and Hydroxide (OH)
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PFOA/C8, PFOS, etc. and the newer, more sinister version GENX (more on this later), are part of a class of PFAS chemicals used in thousands of everyday products. This chain of Carbon (C8) and Fluorine atoms are what we would call a miracle molecule. It doesn’t combine with dirt, water, oils or other fluids. Meaning it is a great repellant that we use in nearly all modern conveniences.
  • Pizza boxes
  • Popcorn bags
  • Non-stick cookware
  • Raincoats
  • Umbrellas
  • Computer chips
  • Smartphones
  • Firefighting equipment
  • Stain-resistant furniture, carpets, upholstery and other fabrics
  • Cosmetics such as nail polish and eye makeup
  • Personal care products such as shampoo and dental floss
  • Paint, varnish, and sealers
And the list goes on and on.... Furthermore, the molecule is heat resistant, breaking down only at extremely high temperatures.
Plastics are said to take up to 500 years to degrade. Some PFAS, on the other hand, can take up to 4 times longer!
So, as we're washing our pots and pans and tossing our trash into the nearest landfill, These substances bioaccumulate, meaning, we cannot rid ourselves of their presence.

How do you know if you’ve been affected by PFAS?

You may hear that the EPA declares a “safe amount” of PFAS of 70 PPT (Parts Per Trillion) within our drinking water. They don’t, however, describe how your body reacts to it.

PFAS, on the other hand, has infiltrated practically every aspect of our lives. Despite the fact that it takes 2 to 9 years to expel it from our system, we are piling on more and more of these chemicals. So, it has become nearly impossible for our bodies to manage their levels.

The symptoms outlined below are not immediately apparent. At least not for children and young adults. But once you’ve been exposed for enough time, those “I’m getting old” issues from early to mid adulthood, may not be the result of another birthday.
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Imagine filling a bucket with water from a garden hose and expecting all of the water to drain through a pinhole at the bottom. You may not see it at first, but the bucket will ultimately overflow. Once that bucket fills up for your body, you can expect problems, such as:
  • High cholesterol - leading to an increased risk of heart disease. As these fatty deposits accumulate in your veins and arteries, it makes it harder for enough blood to flow throughout your body.
  • Ulcerative colitis - wreaking havoc on your digestive system. From mild discomforts like fatigue, to pain and bleeding while going to the bathroom
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension - high blood pressure, headaches, swelling, weight gain, vision blurring, nausea or vomiting, and many more.
  • Thyroid disease - as a catch-all term for the irregular production of hormones by your thyroid gland. Which regulates your energy and causes anxiety, fatigue, sleep troubles, weakness, irregular menstrual cycles, forgetfulness, and many more.
  • Testicular or Kidney Cancer - becoming life threatening if not detected early.
  • Increased Liver size - leading to your body not breaking down foods and other toxic substances.
  • Immune and Vaccine suppression - where the efficacy of the shots you take, including COVID, may be rendered less effective than reported.

Scientists and Researchers Are Only Now Uncovering How Bad These Effects Have Become

The safe limits in our drinking water are not entirely enforceable…
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According to a recent EWG study, 2,854 locations in the US have been tested to uncover “highly toxic fluorinated compounds” and that number is, “growing at an alarming rate.” With some locations reaching 300,000 PPT!

Environmental Working Group 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, October 2021

In another report, the manufacturers themselves attempted to prove how safe their products are. Commonly, when you perform work in the lab, you attempt to establish what is called a “control group.” This cohort of people represents a baseline for which to compare the initial assumption.

That baseline needed to be blood samples without any PFAS contamination.

ken cook ewg environmental working group president and founder profile image circle
“There was no clean blood. They tested kids, they tested adults, they went to Asia. They went all over the world and everywhere they looked practically. They found their chemicals in people’s blood.”

Ken Cook, environmental activist

The Devil We Know, 2018 Investigative Documentary, Dir. Stephanie Soechtig

February 2021, a New York mother opens her mail one day after a PFOA alert was sent out to residents of her city. The result? Her son’s levels read 222,000 PPT. At the time, she was breastfeeding, which resulted in concentrations of 100x the national average.

Near the Great Lakes, another child reaches 484,000 PPT.

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The Guardian, Feb 2021
And many more such stories exist around the country.
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How does PFAS get into water?

Consider a blue-collar worker starting their day at a chrome plating manufacturer.

(Chrome plating is a process of applying a thin layer of reflective material, commonly found on automobiles and your kitchen. Giving them a mirror/sliver-like appearance)

As they begin their daily tasks, gases and acids are emitted from the operation. A mist-suppression sprinkler system engages, protecting the worker’s health, as required by law.

That water has to go somewhere at the end of their shift. Unfortunately, that somewhere is often a nearby river or lake.

Waste discharge from manufacturing facilities is the most frequent way harmful chemicals end up in our water.
Upon arriving home, our chrome friend reaches for a glass of water. Now, the same substances keeping them safe within the factory are betraying them. The same goes for taking a shower and washing their clothes, which end up being absorbed through the skin.

This is also true of firefighting equipment, like the foam spray used to extinguish fires. As well as fire suppressants found in hotels, offices, and other public zones.

All of those liquids unfortunately find a drain, flowing into rivers and the local water supply. Let’s face it, when lives are in immediate danger, it is difficult to think about the long term effects.

Furthermore, your local water treatment facility may use harsh chemicals like Chlorine to remove bacteria and viruses. However, It accomplishes very little, in terms of PFAS elimination!

How does PFAS get into the air?

If you’ve ever driven past an industrial park, you may have seen white or translucent vapor coming out of the smoke stack. While some argue that this is only water vapor due to pollution regulations, trace amounts of pollutants continue to find their way into our air. Some of which is carried by the wind several miles away from the production site, and into nearby towns.

However, the real danger is within our homes, and not just from our water.

Have you ever walked by your window early in the morning or late in the afternoon? Just as the sun is rising or setting. You notice a tranquil, mood setting, ray of light shining across the room as particles of dust float within your view.

While the commonly accepted explanation is that dust is upward of 70% skin cells, which are inherently harmless. The other 30% contains:

  • hair, clothing fibers
  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • dust mites
  • bits of dead bugs
  • soil particles
  • pollen
  • microscopic specs of plastic
  • and of course PFOAs
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Dangerous PFAS in Your Home

Due to the closed nature of most homes, PFOA concentrations are much higher than those produced by factories.

Furniture is the biggest culprit. With some level of stain repellant built in, as well as fire resistance for when the unthinkable happens.

Simply by sitting down on your couch or strolling across your carpet, you stir up those particles. If you have kids or pets, those compounds are exacerbated. and they’re the ones you want to start protecting early on. Before the buildup of these chemicals in their bodies begins.

It’s not just the furniture. PFOAs can also be found in other products in your home:
  • Carpets, rugs and mats
  • Textiles, apparel and leather
  • Paper and packaging
  • Rubber and plastics

How Does PFAS Get Into the Soil and Ground?

Once the contaminated water and fumes are discharged from the manufacturing plants, the PFAS chemicals build up in the soil. Just as sand washes up on the beach, or the steam on your pots and pans collects on the side to slid down on the side.

As we discussed earlier, these contaminants end up miles away from their source. So even if you grow your own food, the chances of ingesting them are significant.
The manufacturers are not all to blame, however. When we throw away everyday items, like popcorn bags or the wrappers from our favorite hamburger. They inevitably end up in landfills, restarting the cycle.

The transfer can occur in both directions, from rivers to the soil into the groundwater.

What is most shocking, however, is the amount of PFAS deposits from emergency personnel. A roaring house fire, for example, takes up to 20,000 gallons of foam to extinguish. Most of which, as you can imagine, seeps directly into the earth.

EPA and government Regulations and Protection

Unfortunately, the very organizations that were created to safeguard us now find themselves with their hands tied. The Toxic Substances Control Act, for example, prevents the EPA from enacting meaningful legislation.

In a nutshell, this allows producers to declare whether or not their products are safe. While there are some checks in place, the government inevitably goes along with the dubious claims.

Within Congress, there has been a modest but rising movement to do something about it. This includes prohibiting and minimizing the use of PFAS in industrial processes. Of course, as we’ve learned more about how our government operates, we’ve come to the conclusion that it is reactive rather than proactive.

They’ll wait for you and your family to become unwell and spend tens of thousands of dollars on medical bills and treatments before taking action.

Which we’re witnessing once more in front of our eyes…

As they aim to regulate some PFAS, a new class of these molecules are being developed. The manufacturers are naming it, GENX.
Not to be confused with Generation X. Those of you born between the 60s and 80s.

While our representatives are busy discussing the ramifications of these outdated chemicals, producers are already transitioning to the new version.

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How can you protect and cure yourself of PFAs?

Realistically, due to their widespread use, it is near to impossible to eliminate. Even if we shut down all production of these materials, we still have decades of build up in our environment.

But we can take action to significantly improve the state of our lives and that of our family.

  1. Check the manufacturer before making purchases. Some stores like Lowes and The Home Depot have started carrying PFAS free furniture.
  2. Invest in a cast iron or other non-stick cookware, that does not use Teflon
  3. Spend more time outside, where the concentration is lower. Or at the very least open your windows more often.
  4. Invest in a quality water filtration system. If you own your home, your best bet is a whole house filter. If you’re renting and/or in an apartment, an under-sink RO system is the next best thing.

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