MAHWAH — It will take $800,000 and at least 18 months to fix the township's water contamination, officials said Monday.
Equating the contamination to "a single drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized pools," officials attempted to calm residents' concerns with a website clarification after issuing a Jan. 13 letter warning of elevated PFOS levels in Well #19.
"This is not an acute contaminant and this is NOT a do-not-drink order," the website states. "Furthermore, the DEP has not asked the Township to take the well offline."
The mail notice reported that one of the township's seven wells had PFOS levels for 2021 of 0.016 micrograms per liter. The newly imposed state limit for 2021 was 0.013.
"The Township will be taking steps to ensure the well is returned to compliance," the website states. "Unfortunately, due to material lead times, that project could take up to 18 months to complete."
Business Administrator Ben Kezmarsky said Monday that the project is expected to cost $800,000. And although the state has given municipalities a year to clean up their water supplies, he said the DEP has approved Mahwah's 18 month timeline.
"The main problem we, along with many other towns, are facing is that there is a 52-week lead time for the materials," Kezmarsky said in an email statement. "Add in design and construction and it could take 18 months."
The website notice invites residents to a Zoom conference Monday at 7 p.m. to answer further questions on water contamination.
The report was the latest of many being issued by municipalities across the state after a year of testing under stricter state Department of Environmental Protection chemical mandates.
Among those chemicals are perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). They are part of a larger class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, known as "forever chemicals" because they break down so slowly in the environment.
The chemicals may affect the liver and immune system, decrease immunity response to vaccines, and cause delays in the development of fetuses and infants. Exposure can also increase the risk of cancer.
The Mahwah letter advises residents to talk to health care providers about the advisability of drinking the water if it is being consumed by infants, pregnant women or the elderly. However, the letter does not specifically advise residents to stop drinking the water.
The chemicals cannot be eliminated by boiling. It is safe for bathing and for clothes and dish washing, Kezmarsky said Monday.
The letter identifies elevated chemical levels at Well #19. However, Kezmarsky said Monday that the well's water is combined with that of the township's six other wells, comprising 69% of its supply, and an additional 31% from Suez North America. Therefore the contamination is not confined to a specific area of town.
"The system of wells and water from Suez work in concert, so it is shared by all residents," Kezmarsky said.
Marsha Stoltz is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Mahwah water: It will take 18 months to fix PFOS contamination