A bill seeking to establish a safety standard for an unregulated chemical found in two local wells appears to be on the fast track to reach Gov. Chris Christie’s desk this month.
The bill, written by Assemblymen Herb Conaway, D-7th of Delanco, and Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, seeks to regulate a maximum contaminant level for 1,2,3-trichloroprane, also known as 1,2,3-TCP, which was discovered in water samples taken from two Moorestown municipal wells in 2013.
The man-made chemical compound is a likely carcinogen, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but it is not regulated by either the state or federal government.
Conaway and Singleton’s bill would mandate the Drinking Water Quality Institute to recommend a maximum contaminant level for the chemical to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to adopt within 180 days.
The institute, which is a state advisory panel made up of environmental and health officials and public appointees, already issued a recommendation for the chemical in March 2009, but the DEP has never acted on it.
A spokesman for the DEP has said the department is waiting for the federal EPA to develop a national-health-based standard for the chemical.
Conaway and Singleton don’t want the DEP to wait. Their measure was approved by the Assembly on Thursday by a vote of 61-1, with 12 members either abstaining or not voting.
Companion legislation sponsored by Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-14th of Cranbury, is scheduled to be taken up by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Monday. If the committee advances the bill, it could be voted on by the full Senate during its next voting session on June 25.
Conaway and Singleton introduced the legislation in December after 1,2,3-TCP was found in water samples taken from the Moorestown wells. The discovery prompted the DEP to advise the township to close the two wells last October, and they have remained closed as local officials work with the department to resolve the situation.
Conaway and Singleton said the bill would strengthen water quality standards to protect public health in Moorestown and communities across the state.
“When residents turn on the tap, they should be confident that their water is safe to drink,” Conaway said.
The New Jersey Sierra Club is also pushing for the bill’s fast approval in the wake of the DEP’s failure to set an acceptable limit.
“We should not need this legislation, but the fact that the Christie administration is not moving forward with protecting drinking water and continuously sides with polluters over public health means we must have bills like this to do the job they are not doing,” club director Jeff Tittel said.
Moorestown officials have stressed that the township’s drinking water is safe, and that they intend to address any TCP contamination before reopening the wells.
Since the discovery, the municipality has hired an engineer to study the matter. It is also taking part in a pilot study to see what treatments are most effective.