Read the full article from Shantal Riley (Gothamist)

“Lawmakers took a major step last month to curb toxic chemicals that have polluted the water of cities and towns across America. If it passes in the U.S. Senate, the new bill will usher in a federal law to regulate ‘forever chemicals’ in air and drinking water. The legislation could bring vital funding and cleanups to affected Hudson Valley communities like the City of Newburgh.

On July 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would designate two persistent chemicals–perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)–as ‘hazardous substances’ and set a long-awaited, national standard for drinking water.

The compounds are the most studied in a group of thousands of PFAS – short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Known informally as ‘forever chemicals,’ because they don’t break down in the environment, PFAS can take years to leave the human body. They’re so widespread that most Americans have some level of PFAS in their blood.

Newburgh water was found contaminated with elevated levels of PFAS in 2016. The chemicals were later traced back to PFAS-containing fire foam at nearby Stewart Air National Guard Base. ‘It’s a step in the right direction,’ said Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey.

Last year, New York State set a maximum contaminant level of 10 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. For context, in 2016, the city’s lake reservoir tested with PFAS at 170 parts per trillion – more than twice the Environmental Protection Agency’s current health advisory level. Months later, blood tests showed Newburgh residents had almost four times the amount of PFOS in their blood as the general U.S. population.

Humans are exposed to PFAS through food, dust, drinking water and products that contain them. They’re found in everything from makeup and dental floss to carpets and paper to-go boxes. And they’ve been linked to certain cancers.

If signed into law, the PFAS Action Act of 2021 would empower the EPA to order the cleanup of contaminated sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. The bill would see PFOA and PFOS designated as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and give the EPA five years to determine whether to regulate other PFAS chemicals.

The EPA would also decide whether to classify PFAS as toxic pollutants under the Clean Water Act. If this happens, industrial polluters that discharge PFAS into certain water bodies could face steep fines and penalties.

‘That’s exactly how it got into our bodies in the City of Newburgh,’ said the mayor, referring to a stream that carried PFAS from the air base into the city’s drinking water reservoir at Washington Lake.”…