Environmental Geosciences


Various research studies have been conducted in the State of New Jersey to test the pollution that may be present in water catchment areas, specifically in drinking water sites. The Private Well Testing Act Program covered the research for aqueous contaminants in New Jersey for the periods 2002 to 2007, with the end results indicating that twelve percent of drinking water wells were contaminated with human wastes, lead particles, nitrate components among others (NJ Department of Environmental Protection Division of Water Supply, Bureau of Safe Drinking Water & Division of Science, Research and Technology, 2008). In the same period, a study was also launched by the same department as an investigation in the levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water. Perfluorooctanoic acid is a chemical that is produced in industries for the purpose of Teflon production, a type of household cleansing agent. The contaminant was found to be present in seventy-eight percent of all the sample population area.

Basic Chemical and Physical Characteristics of the Chemical

PFOA has the molecular formula and weight as C8HF15O2 and 414.1g/mol respectively. It is an organic acid that has a fluorine component, making it totally miscible with water; dissociating itself to form anionic carboxylate as the solution while a perfluoroalykyl chain that is less dense than water, thereby floating atop. Its solubility is enhanced with the increment of temperature, having a melting point of 45-50 OC and boiling point of 189-192 OC. At room temperature, the component is solid in nature with a white color (European Food Safety Authority, 2008).

Pollution Sources

PFOA release into the atmosphere from manufacturing plants is the leading source of pollution. Industries that manufacture fluoropolymer products are leading sources, in actuality accounting for eighty percent, of PFOA air pollution. For human beings, these emissions are inhaled or ingested through contaminated food, air or water. However, water contamination as opposed to food contamination accounts for the largest pollution source to humans.

Levels Found in Water

The New Jersey American Water Company, Western Division had two primary source types that had PFOA contamination. For the first type, raw/surface water intake, PFOA parts per billion (PFOA ppb) were at 0.0036J, while for the second type, finished water the levels measured at 0.0039J. For the Rockaway Township Water Department, raw unconfined wells had 0.0061J while finished water levels were 0.0062J. The Passaic Water Valley Commission had the raw surface water intake of 0.026J and the finished water sources had 0.027J. The Rahway Water Department had the raw surface water intake of 0.039J while the finished water sources had 0.039J. The control centers used for the research were two; Newton Water & Sewer Utilities indicated 0.0030J while Rosemont Water Department had 0.0045J (NJ Department of Environmental Protection Division of Water Supply, Bureau of Safe Drinking Water, 2007).

Environmental and Health Impacts

PFOA traces are absorbed in the bloodstream and cause liver enlargement, growth of tumors, thyroid gland dwindling, loss weight and hypertension in humans. Factory emissions cause air and water pollution, which consequently translates to health hazards.

Fate and Transport in Hydrosphere, Atmosphere, Biosphere, and Geosphere

PFOA is environmentally un-degradable and in the geosphere, it tends to amass in glacial areas with the rest of the areas having few levels of the acid. It is believed that the acid is very unrelenting in nature and it is therefore spread in a global scale. In the biosphere, this component is both present in the biotic and abiotic environments. Factory emissions constitute the highest source for PFOA traces that can attach themselves on soil particles, vegetation or dissolve in water bodies. Contamination of water bodies constitutes to the hydrosphere, where the contaminant is transported as a solution (Stemmler & Lammel, 2010).

Current Pollution Situation in New Jersey

The State of New Jersey lacks governing policies to regulate the water contamination by PFOA. The more this chemical component is released to the environment and human exposure, the more it will cause health end environmental degradation. This should therefore be considered as an unresolved issue that requires urgent attention for its control.








Works Cited:

European Food Safety Authority. “Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and their salts: Scientific Opinion of the panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain.” The EFSA Journal 653 (2008): 1-131. Print.

NJ Department of Environmental Protection Division of Water Supply, Bureau of Safe Drinking Water & Division of Science, Research and Technology. Private Well Testing Act Program: Well Test Results For September 2002- April 2007. July 2008. Web. 28 Sept. 2010.

NJ Department of Environmental Protection Division of Water Supply, Bureau of Safe Drinking Water. Determination of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) in Aqueous Samples: Final report. January 2007. Web. 28 Sept. 2010.

Stemmler, I. & Lammel, G. “Pathways of PFOA to the Arctic: variabilities and contributions of oceanic currents and atmospheric transport and chemistry sources.” European Geosciences Union Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions 10 (2010): 11577-11641.

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