(POLITICO) -- TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s largest drinking water supplier discovered a toxic chemical in the river where it gets water for hundreds of thousands of customers, setting off a major search for polluters that led back to a Pennsylvania wastewater treatment plant and a South Jersey company.
The chemical New Jersey American Water Co. found, 1,4-Dioxane, is a byproduct of plastic manufacturing that is considered a likely carcinogen by the federal government. While the chemical has been found in water supplies before, this discovery in early 2020 set off alarms because of the high levels in a section of the Delaware River close to American Water’s treatment plant in South Jersey that sends drinking water to customers in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties.
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It wasn’t just a New Jersey problem. The Delaware and all of its tributaries provide drinking water to more than 13 million people along the East Coast — including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware — and officials had no idea how the chemical was getting into the river.