More than a dozen environmental, civic, and research groups have sent a letter urging the New York State Department of Health and the Drinking Water Quality Council to establish so-called maximum contaminant levels for three chemicals, including PFOA and PFOS. The groups highlight new research in recommending levels they think the state should adopt.
The groups say that with drinking water crises in Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh, Newburgh and on Long Island, now is the time for the state Health Department and Drinking Water Quality Council to adopt maximum contaminant levels, or MCLs, for PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-dioxane. One group that signed the letter is Environmental Advocates of New York, where Liz Moran is water and natural resources director.
“And it seems like the more we learn about this class of chemicals, PFAS chemicals, the more we learn that even low levels of exposure can have a detrimental impact on our most sensitive populations — pregnant women and fetuses and children. And so we really want to make sure that we’re protecting those populations,” Moran says. “So we believe 4 parts per trillion, a low maximum contaminant level, is most likely to be safe for public health and the environment.”
The recommendation of 4 parts per trillion is for PFOA and PFOS. And they suggest 0.3 parts per billion for 1,4-dioxane. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency has a health advisory of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. In June, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, released a draft report recommending an MCL of 7 parts per trillion. Judith Enck, a regular contributor to WAMC’s Roundtable panel, is former Region 2 EPA Administrator. Her comments relate to the ATSDR report.
“We now have a new number on the scene,” Enck says. “And whether it’s a health advisory or an enforceable drinking water standard, every single regulatory agency at the state and local level should read this long, important report and proceed with establishing safety levels of drinking water so they don’t exceed 7 parts per trillion.”
Moran adds the groups want to see regulations adopted for statewide testing for the latest emerging contaminants.
“We think that the public has a right to know what’s coming out of their tap,” says Moran. “So we think that the best place to start is testing. What we fear could happen is another situation like Hoosick Falls where it takes a citizen to test their own water to see that a chemical is in it. That should never be the case.”
A spokesperson says the work of the Drinking Water Quality Council remains a top priority for the New York State Department of Health. The statement goes on to say, “Ensuring communities have access to clean drinking water is a national issue and in the absence of federal leadership, New York established this council to take the necessary steps at the state level to protect our residents. Failures at the EPA have further complicated this matter at a time when national standards for emerging contaminants are needed to safeguard all Americans. The Drinking Water Quality Council continues to review all available information, including the recent ATSDR study, to ensure our actions are informed by the best available science.”
Again, Judith Enck.
“So now it’s really incumbent upon Governor Cuomo and Health Commissioner Zucker to stand up for clean drinking water, stop playing semantics, look at this ATSDR report and establish a new state drinking water standard protective of public health and not wait for the Trump EPA to act or not act,” says Enck.
Meantime, comments on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s draft report are due July 23.