On November 3, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) announced that the Site Remediation and Waste Management Program had launched a new webpage dedicated to “Contaminants of Emerging Concern.” www.nj.gov/dep/srp/emerging-contaminants/. The announcement notes that the new webpage “currently focuses on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)” such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Neither the announcement nor the new webpage clearly defines what constitutes a contaminant of emerging concern, but the webpage implies that these contaminants are ubiquitous and include compounds for which there are emerging standards, like PFOA, as well as compounds that are still being studied by NJDEP, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other entities.

The definition of “contaminants of emerging concern” will need to be watched closely by LSRPs and remediating parties because NJDEP’s new webpage also provides that “Contaminants of emerging concern, if discharged to the waters or onto lands of the State, are pollutants that must be remediated using a [LSRP]. When the remedial objective for a site is an entire site final remediation document and the site is currently or was formerly occupied by facilities that stored, handled, and used contaminants of emerging concern, LSRPs must consider these contaminants of concern during the investigation and remedial action. LSRPs must evaluate the site for potential spills and releases through air, water, and waste discharges.”

It appears that LSRPs must consider, and responsible parties must remediate, PFOAs and likely the other two PFASs listed on the new webpage: Perfluorononanoic Acid (PFNA); and Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOS), but the proposed drinking water standards for these PFASs are in parts per trillion, and it’s unclear how these standards would, for example, translate into soil remediation standards. It’s both unclear what constitutes a contaminant of emerging concern for site remediation purposes, and the extent to which any such contaminant must be remediated. This emerging issue will need to be watched closely.