Clean Water Advocates Call for Stronger Water Regulations Without Delay

For Immediate Release: March 9, 2020

Clean Water Advocates Call for Stronger Water Regulations Without Delay

Thousands of public comments demand NY fully protect its drinking water  

Albany - Leading environmental advocates today released a letter to New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker, calling on the state to take immediate steps to protect clean water in New York. The Department of Health (DOH) is currently finalizing regulations that would establish Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane in public drinking water supplies. Advocates urged DOH to:

  • Lower the proposed MCLs to a combined 2 ppt for PFOA and PFOS and 0.3 ppb for 1,4-dioxane. With current advances in detection and treatment and recent science indicating there is no safe level of exposure to these chemicals, the MCLs should be lowered to be the most protective of New Yorkers’ health.
  • Rescind a deferral provision proposed in the rulemaking that could leave New Yorkers drinking toxic water for longer. A deferral system risks slowing the installation of treatment technology and cuts public notification requirements from every three months to once a year.

The comment period on the proposed regulations is set to close on Monday, March 9th. Advocates noted that over five thousand New Yorkers from across the state have shared these concerns on the proposed regulations since the rulemaking process was initiated in 2019, including over 1,000 in 2020 alone.

The advocates asking for stronger regulations without the deferral provision represent a range of environmental groups, impacted communities, and grassroots groups from around the state, from Buffalo and the Finger Lakes to Hoosick Falls, Newburgh and Long Island. A full copy of the letter and the organizations supporting it can be found here.

Maureen Cunningham, senior director for clean water for Environmental Advocates of New York said, “Right now, New York has a chance to be a true leader in the global fight for clean water. We need to get this right, by establishing the strongest regulations possible that are most protective of New Yorkers’ health. We expect strong leadership from the state, which in this case means placing public health and safe drinking water as our highest priority.”

Liz Moran, environmental policy director for NYPIRG, said, “Nearly 5 years after Hoosick Falls learned of their PFOA drinking water contamination crisis, those residents, and those impacted since, will soon get the peace of knowing this chemical is finally regulated in drinking water. The Department of Health has a final opportunity to ensure the standards set for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane reflect the most health protective science, and that there are no delays for enforcement. Millions of New Yorkers have already been exposed to these contaminants - to prevent others from getting sick, it is crucial to get these drinking water standards right.” 

Eric Weltman, senior organizer for Food & Water Action, said, “Governor Cuomo’s most important obligation is safeguarding the health of New Yorkers. Anything less than the most protective standards for our drinking water would recklessly endanger lives. The Cuomo administration must not leave any community behind by allowing water systems to delay implementing the standards. The Cuomo administration is also obligated to ensure that state funding is available for municipal water systems to help meet these standards.”

Alok Disa, Senior Research and Policy for Earthjustice said, “All New Yorkers deserve clean drinking water free from cancer-causing chemicals. Instead of strengthening public health protections, the Cuomo administration’s proposal weakens them by allowing continued exposure to these toxic chemicals. The science is clear: safeguarding public health requires more stringent standards to protect all communities from PFAS. The Governor must direct the Department of Health to go back to the drawing board to get this right.”

Mary Finneran, environmental activist and resident of Cairo said, “The Town of Cairo, New York has been confronted by water supplies contaminated with PFOS. Our town and others like ours need drinking water standards for PFOS and other emerging contaminants at the lowest levels and without delay. The health of our babies and schoolchildren should be our highest priority.”

###