New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney was at the site of a Newburgh lake where PFOS contamination was revealed in 2016 today, calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to immediately take up PFAS legislation passed in the House this month.
New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney represents the 18th District, home to both Newburgh and surrounding communities that have been impacted by PFOS contamination.
“What we are calling on today is the Senate to act,” Maloney says.
The Democrat wrote to Republican Senate Majority Leader McConnell, urging him to take up the PFAS Action Act the House passed January 10 with bipartisan support.
“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. Democrats and Republicans all drink the water together. And we are going to get sick or stay healthy together,” Maloney says. “And we’ve got to act in a way that is science-based and with common sense to protect our drinking water, and that’s what the PFAS Action Act gets it.”
The PFAS Action Act contains 11 bills, one Maloney authored — the PFAS Testing Act, which requires testing of all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances under the Toxic Substances Control Act by any entity who manufactures or processes PFAS chemicals. The bill also requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set testing requirements for PFAS and make all results public.
“It’s quite clear to me that Mitch McConnell’s taken his clue from the White House. The president has threatened to veto. And to just say it plainly, it’s because there’s a lot of powerful interests that don’t want this done,” says Maloney. “There are powerful economic interests that do not want to bear the cost and to have the burden of making sure that what they’re doing is not exposing the rest of us to hazardous substances. This is always the tension in environmental legislation.”
A statement of Administration Policy issued January 7 contains the intent to veto. The statement says the PFAS Action Act would require the Administration to bypass well-established processes, procedures and legal requirements of the nation’s most fundamental environmental laws, truncating the rulemaking process. The statement also says the bill would create considerable litigation risk and impose a heavy burden on states, local governments, and other potentially responsible parties by requiring them to implement stringent regulations before any consideration of whether such implementation is even feasible.
“Yeah, I think they believe that there’s a liability concern for some of these companies involved. But, of course, perhaps there should be,” says Maloney. “I mean, the point is not to protect the powerful and the wealthy. The point is to protect people who need clean water, and that is all of us.”
Democratic Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey:
“It’s very important on all levels — local, state, federal — that we work together and collaborate because, as Congressman Maloney mentioned, clean water is a right,” Harvey says. “And local taxpayers cannot afford the remediation that’s needed and necessary to clean up the contaminant at the source, Rec Pond, coming out of Silver Stream and into our Washington Lake, which is behind us.”
The city has been drawing its drinking water from the Catskill Aqueduct. Meantime, a temporary filtration system is up and running at the Recreation Pond outflow at Stewart Air National Guard Base, from where some of the highest concentrations of PFOS emanate. Again, Maloney:
“We know in the end we don’t have to accept the false choice between a strong economy and a clean environment,” Maloney says. “We can do both.”
New York 19th District Congressman Antonio Delgado, a Democrat, is one of the PFAS Action Act’s 66 co-sponsors. The Act includes a Delgado amendment that would make it illegal for an industrial facility to introduce PFAS into a sewage treatment system without first disclosing information about that substance.