Read the full article by Rachel Silberstein
“ALBANY — New York’s Drinking Water Quality Council will need more time to review new science before recommending limits on federally unregulated contaminants in New York’s water sources.
The 12-member council, created in September 2017 and overseen by the state Health Department, was tasked with creating recommendations for maximum contamination levels for chemicals including PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-dioxane in drinking water by the one-year anniversary of its first meeting.
That deadline came and went on Tuesday.
In lieu of the report, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office instead announced $200 million in grant funding for filtration systems and infrastructure to help communities address the emerging chemicals that have wreaked havoc on Hoosick Falls, Newburgh and Long Island, among others.
‘While the federal government fails to set national standards and guidelines for safe drinking water, New York is prepared to take action in the absence of federal leadership,’ Cuomo said. ‘This funding will ensure communities have the technology and support they need to provide their residents with quality drinking water, creating a safer, healthier New York for all.’
A Health Department spokesman said the agency anticipates the council’s recommendations will be released for public comment in late November or early December, and that the report will address a broader range of emerging contaminants. That pushes the release of the potentially controversial recommendations beyond November’s elections.
The council, lead by state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, was created to address what are broadly viewed as major deficiencies in federal regulations. The federal Environmental Protection Agency sets guidance levels for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water at 70 parts per trillion (ppt). A new federal report has since found that the EPA’s guidance level is far higher than what is safe for public health. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a subsidiary of the federal Health Department, suggests levels should be at least 10 times lower…
…health officials are currently working with a consortium of states to identify a number of other toxic chemicals that are currently unregulated by the federal government. The Council is scheduled to meet again on Oct. 17 to review some of these findings.
A coalition of environmental activists, including residents of Hoosick Falls, gathered at the state Capitol last week to call on Cuomo to immediately establish more stringent state guidelines for the toxins.
While new filtration systems are helpful, they are no replacement for comprehensive screening requirements and lower limits on contamination levels, according to Liz Moran, water and natural resources director for Environmental Advocates of New York.
‘This funding is a sidestep,’ Moran said of the governor’s announcement. ‘Statewide guidance is, frankly, the first step to addressing this issue. And the fact that it’s taking this long is very curious.’
Moran noted that other states had surpassed New York in efforts to protect citizens from these chemicals. Vermont has already created limits on PFOA levels, and New Jersey has released recommendations for maximum contamination levels.
Of the grant funding awarded on Tuesday, $185 million will be available to communities across the state to upgrade drinking water treatment systems. The remaining $15 million has been awarded to communities already pursuing system upgrades and innovative pilot technologies to treat the emerging contaminants.”