Colonia holds public meeting for residents concerned about drinking water quality
Thousands of Middlesex and Union county residents were hoping to get answers about the safety of their drinking water at a meeting Monday.
The Colonia High School auditorium was packed on Monday evening for a public meeting after nearly 29,000 Middlesex Water Company customers received a letter on Friday telling them that there were higher-than-acceptable levels of a chemical called PFOA in their drinking water. The chemical is used in things like nonstick pans and firefighting foam.
The letter explained that the state of New Jersey recently lowered the acceptable levels, putting the Middlesex Water Company’s supply below the standard. The customers were told that those with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, babies and the elderly could be more at risk for adverse effects over time.
The announcement left people in parts of Colonia, Rahway, Clark, South Plainfield, Metuchen and Edison very concerned and with a lot of questions, prompting the mayor of Woodbridge to organize a meeting.
“A lower standard came out of New Jersey, and that put something that was OK, now it’s no longer OK. It’s not like they did something to the water,” said Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac. “It’s not like suddenly these PFOAs got into the system from the ground or from the rain or anywhere. The system’s been the same for 60 years. We’ve been drinking this water for 60 years.”
McCormac says that he has formed a partnership with the mayor of the other towns involved to hire a consultant to advise them on this issue and to answer other questions. The mayor has also done joint calls with members of the state Department of Environmental Protection to become more educated on the topic.
The water company insists that this is not a public health emergency, and says that the chance of anyone getting sick from the water is extremely low. A representative from Middlesex Water Company echoed the mayor’s statement that the only thing that has changed is the state’s standard for acceptable PFOA levels.
But some residents were not satisfied with these explanations and say that the company should be providing them with water filters or bottled water until a new treatment plant comes online. This is not expected to happen until 2023.
Other towns, including Edison, Metuchen and South Plainfield will be holding their own public meetings for concerned residents. All impacted residents are invited.