Created in the wake of several high-profile contamination crises, New York's new Drinking Water Council is preparing to hold its first meeting.
Chemicals like PFOA and PFOS, which have contaminated waters in some areas of the state, will be in the crosshairs when the 12-member panel assembles October 2nd at SUNY Stony Brook on Long Island to consider setting maximum levels of several emerging contaminants not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
New York State Department of Health Deputy Commissioner of Public Health Brad Hutton is one of the appointees to the Drinking Water Quality Council. "There are a series of unregulated contaminants that have been part of a federal monitoring program, so we're beginning to identify their presence in water systems. But the federal approach really just stops after monitoring. And the monitoring has only been for larger water systems serving 10,000 users or more. And so also as part of the enacted budget this past April, legislation was passed that would require water systems all across New York state, regardless of the number or users that are served, to begintesting for some new contaminants that are required by the department with the advice of this new council."
Among those contaminants: the industrial solvent dioxane, which has tainted water supplies on Long Island and elsewhere. New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut have already set dioxane tolerance standards. "There's an incredible amount of work that's put in by existing drinking water systems across the state to deliver high-quality drinking water to residents. New York is far ahead of the game nationally, and under Governor Cuomo's leadership has really made this a premier issue, and so, the benefit here with this new council and approach is that we'll be testing for and potentially testing and then treating these contaminants to make New York's water even cleaner than around the nation."
New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos are also on the panel. Sean Mahar is the DEC's assistant Commissioner of Public Affairs. "New York State is making unprecedented commitments to improving water quality, to the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the $300 million Environmental Protection Fund, which are financing many important projects to improve water quality and address threats."
A Capital Region meeting will be held later this year, but no date or location has been announced. Many residents of Hoosick Falls, which has grappled with PFOA contamination, were critical of the state’s initial response.
Governor Cuomo says the council must make its first recommendations by October 2018.
Federal officials are also eyeing the water crisis: On Monday, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the Department of Defense will be taking water samples in and around Stewart Air National Guard Base in New Windsor.
Schumer said in a statement the contamination in Newburgh’s water is well beyond the acceptable 70 parts per trillion limit of human exposure to PFOA and PFOS. State DEC testing in March 2016 showed water supply contamination likely came from the release of aqueous-forming foam from Stewart Air Force Base, which has been declared a Superfund site.