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Concerns Over Water Quality In Parts Of Middlesex County Due To PFOA Levels

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - There are concerns over the water quality for some in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Elevated levels of a potentially harmful chemical have been detected.

As CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reports, a contaminant flows through some of the tap water - Perfluorooctanoic Acid - or PFOA for short.

"It's unbelievable," one person said.

"PFOA was detected in samples from our treatment facility in South Plainfield," Middlesex Water Company wrote in a letter to valued customers affected in South Plainfield, Clark, Edison, Metuchen, Woodbridge and Carteret.

One South Plainfield resident received the letter about two weeks ago.

"Getting the first letter in the mail, it was a little like, 'Oh, do we have to, like, can we even bathe in this water anymore?'" the resident said.

Murdock caught up with Susan Bitterman of Edison and Meryl Schoen-Noble of South Plainfield in mid-conversation about water dispensers. After learning about PFOA in their water, they both feel they need one.

"Sounds like the healthiest choice, buy it," Schoen-Noble said.

"It's horrible, and they are doing nothing to accommodate what we're going through," Bitterman said.

CBS2 reached out to Middlesex Water Company. A spokesperson shared the company is "feverishly working on an interim solution," adding "we are building a plant to comply with the new regulation."

Middlesex Water Company wants its customers to know water quality has not changed, regulations have. The NJ DEP established a new concentration limit - 40 parts per trillion dropped to 14. That's similar to one drop of food coloring in 18 million gallons of water.

"These standards are in place to protect human health," said Chris Gobler, director of the Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University.

Gobler said it's worth noting that in New Jersey's neighbor, the Empire State, the standard now sits at 10, and the reasoning is science-based.

"If you have a water supply that's above that, and that's the water you're drinking every single day and you're exposed to it every single day, you know, there could be harm," Gobler said.

PFOA, used historically in firefighting foam and for household items like nonstick pans, are forever chemicals that build up over time. Gobler says prolonged exposure can lead to cancer, problems with the thyroid, liver and the immune system. The young and immunocompromised are most at risk.

Gobler urges people protect themselves by using granular activated carbon water filters.

Bottled water is also an option to avoid PFOA.

New Jersey American Water customers in Clark, Edison and South Plainfield are not affected.

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