Toxic Drinking Water Puts Tens of Thousands in Danger

A dangerous substance was detected in the waterway where New Jersey’s main water supply provider gets fresh water for hundreds of thousands of clients.

This prompted a massive hunt for pollutants that linked back to a Pennsylvania water treatment plant, as well as a South Jersey corporation.

The Details

The chemical discovered by New Jersey American Water Co., 1,4-Dioxane, is a residue of plastic manufacture that the national government considers to be a potential carcinogen.

The toxin has been identified in water sources before.

However, the elevated levels in a portion of the Delaware River near American Water’s processing plant in South Jersey (which distributes drinking water to clients in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, as well as Salem counties) raised alarms in early 2020.

It wasn’t simply a problem in New Jersey. The Delaware River and its sources supply drinking water to upwards of more than 13 million east coasters, including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Authorities had no idea how the toxin got into the river.

What they discovered, which has not been published in detail, is a loophole in federal and state rules that allowed a dangerous chemical to get into a critical water source.

Although there are no national limits on the amount of 1,4-Dioxane that can be found in the water supply, New Jersey is seeking new guidelines that would limit the toxin to.33 parts per billion.

In Delaware, some tests from 2020 detected approximately ten times that level. Officials in New Jersey stated the levels did not “cause any obvious health danger” at the time the water supply was delivered to customers.

Officials from throughout the region formed a group to find the origin of the contamination, such as the Delaware River Basin Council, a multi-state institution tasked with caring about the waterway.

Who Will Take the Fall?

Though their study continues, it has a disappointing twist.

Someone certainly threw the poison into the water, but it’s unclear whether anybody will face punishment for contaminating one of the country’s most important water sources.

Some compounds, such as 1,4-dioxane, are still uncontrolled.

Even as New Jersey’s Environmental Protection Agency prepares to put severe limits on the quantity of 1,4-Dioxane permitted in tap water for the first occasion, it appears improbable those laws would have averted the poisoning of the Delaware River.

The proposed guidelines in New Jersey force drinking water companies to search for and remove the majority of the toxin from the water supply. However, they do little to prevent pollutants from depositing it there in the first instance.


Even though New Jersey expands its primary treatment to manage 1,4-Dioxane and other pollutants, the Delaware River incident reveals the scope to which drinkable water providers are often held responsible for other people’s issues.

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