PAULSBORO As the borough wrestles with a contamination threat, the hardware store that had been supplying free bottled water to residents relinquished that responsibility this week, leaving it unclear where the water will be available.
Weiss True Value manager Phil Weiss said Friday that the store had run out of the bottled water for distribution, and that the family-owned firm asked to end its involvement in the giveaway.
The water distribution was interfering with other work, Weiss said, as the store had become "extremely busy" with spring business. He said he thought an alternative was being worked out.
Solvay Specialty Polymers, a West Deptford plastics company, is thought to be responsible for releasing perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) - and a specific type, perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) - into the environment until it reportedly stopped using them in 2010. The firm agreed this year to supply water to the borough's residents, using the hardware store as a distributor.
While PFCs are not regulated, the state Department of Environmental Protection advised families not to use tap water for children 1 and under. A number of residents have filed suits against Solvay.
A Solvay representative, Dave Klucsik, said the company would continue to supply water, but "we don't have a distributor right now."
Weiss said his store distributed between 400 and 500 cases of water per week.
"They've been doing that for weeks and weeks and weeks. Why would they just stop it now?" said Sue Meade, a 68-year-old borough resident, who had planned to pick up a case of water Saturday.
The borough's attorney, Brad Campbell, did not return a request for comment Friday night.
This month, officials turned off Municipal Well No. 7, which had the highest reported PFNA level. They previously had relied on the supply because two other wells' treatment systems were being upgraded to filter naturally occurring radium.
Brenda Avellino, 48, said officials should have given better notification to residents that the well was being turned off.
"It would be nice to know the truth," Avellino said. She plans to continue buying bottled water until she sees readings that indicate the water is safe.
Four other towns in the county - Woodbury, West Deptford, East Greenwich, and Greenwich - have stopped using water supplies in which PFNA has been detected.