Legislators and Advocates Submit Thousands of Comments, Urging Cuomo to Lower Proposed MCLs

For Immediate Release: September 23, 2019

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Legislators and Advocates Submit Thousands of Comments, Urging Cuomo to Lower Proposed Maximum Contaminant Levels

Safe Drinking Water Now in the Hands of the State

Albany –Today, Assembly Member Phil Steck joined with Environmental Advocates of New York, New York Public Interest Research Group, Food & Water Watch, and other environmental organizations and community groups to urge Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to set lower Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane than have been proposed. The groups delivered 3,850+ comments generated from the public supporting lower MCLs.

Maureen CunninghamThese industrial chemicals have contaminated drinking water supplies for millions of New Yorkers, including those in Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh, Newburgh, and on Long Island. More New Yorkers may currently be exposed to these chemicals in drinking water, but not even know it – as has recently been seen in the Finger Lakes region. The proposed state drinking water standards will require all public water systems to test for these chemicals and reduce exposure if the standard is exceeded. The state has held a 60-day public comment period as part of the rulemaking process, from July 24th through September 23rd. Comments can be sent through the end of today to regsqna@health.ny.gov.

The organizations are calling for MCLs that are the most protective of human health and are in line with the latest science and available detection and treatment technologies:

  • PFOA and PFOS (combined): 2 parts per trillion (ppt);
  • 1,4-dioxane: 0.3 parts per billion (ppb).

The following MCLs were recommended by the New York State Drinking Water Quality Council in December 2018 and proposed by DOH:

  • PFOA: 10 ppt;
  • PFOS: 10 ppt;
  • 1,4-dioxane: 1.0 ppb.

The groups are urging the Department of Health to ensure that all New Yorkers can trust the safety of their public water supplies by using the latest science and available treatment technologies when setting MCLs and to expand MCLs to include additional PFAS chemicals. A recent study from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that there is likely no safe level of exposure to PFAS chemicals. The nation’s top toxicologist has stated that the safety threshold for PFOA in water should be as low as 0.1 ppt. Treatment technology is currently capable of treating PFOA and PFOS as low as 2 ppt.

Assemblymember Phil Steck said, “We are finding out more and more about chemicals used in all kinds of everyday products that are extremely dangerous to human health, and especially children. This includes PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-dioxane, which are chemicals that can be found in everything from food wrapping, non-stick pans, and cosmetics. PFOA and PFOS are particularly insidious because they stay in your system forever, which is why I sponsored a bill this session that banned the entire spectrum of PFAS from firefighting foam. New York State is a leader in environmental protection and should set a standard for these chemicals to effectively protect human health. Considering the PFOA contamination crisis this state is facing, I urge the Department of Health to set the most stringent MCLs possible for these chemicals to protect our drinking water, a critical natural resource in New York State.”

Senator Neil Breslin said, “I am proud the State Legislature passed tough restrictions to protect our drinking water from harmful chemicals such as PFOA and 1,4-dioxane, however more needs to be done to address this issue. Today I urge the Department of Health to use the latest science and available treatment technologies when setting MCLs so we can protect the health of New Yorkers and tackle potential contamination quickly and effectively.”

Senator Liz Krueger said, “When it comes to PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane, the science is clear: there is no safe level for these toxic chemicals in our drinking water. The Maximum Contaminant Levels proposed by the Drinking Water Quality Council will not protect New Yorkers, especially our most vulnerable neighbors, who will continue to face preventable contamination in their water. I urge the Department of Health to set MCLs at sufficiently low levels so that when New Yorkers turn on their taps, they can rest assured their water is clean and safe to drink.”

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, Chair of the Committee on Children and Families said, “Our children and all residents of New York State should be able to turn on the tap and drink water without consuming contaminants that put their health at risk. It’s time to listen to the science and acknowledge that there is likely no safe level of PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane in our drinking water. To fully protect the health of every New Yorker it is imperative that the Department of Health lower its proposed Maximum Contaminant Levels to the lowest detectable and treatable levels. New York State owes it to the thousands of residents who have already been harmed by these cancer-causing chemicals.”

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said, “There is no safe level of exposure to PFAS chemicals in drinking water. Capital Region residents in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh have already suffered the effects of PFAS-tainted drinking water, and I urge the Department of Health (DOH) to reconsider proposed Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) to ensure that no New Yorker is unnecessarily exposed to dangerous amounts of PFAS. These chemicals have been linked to numerous serous health effects such as certain cancers, complications for pregnant women, and otherwise according to a scientific report done by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). All New Yorkers deserve reliably clean and safe drinking water, period.”

Maureen Cunningham, Senior Director for Clean Water at Environmental Advocates of New York, said, “The Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) that the Department of Health proposed are simply not protective enough of human health, based on available science and on existing detection and treatment technologies. This is a question of equity, and we won’t rest until each and every New Yorker has clean drinking water. That’s why New York’s drinking water standards for these toxic chemicals need to be as stringent as possible – to place the highest priority on the health of all New Yorkers and to ensure that if contamination is found in any community, corrective action will be taken.”

Liz Moran, environmental policy director for NYPIRG said, “Thousands of New Yorkers have submitted comments today to demand surety that the water from their taps is safe to drink - that means setting MCLs for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane that align with the latest science. The more that is learned about these chemicals, which have polluted the water supplies serving millions of New Yorkers, the lower levels considered safe become. With the health of New Yorkers on the line, it is critical the Department of Health gets these standards right.”     

Michele Baker, Hoosick Falls resident and member of the NYWaterProject said, “We have long said that if PFOA and PFOS were regulated, our community of Hoosick Falls would not be in the terrible situation it is in today. Some of us, along with our friends, families, and neighbors, are sick because of these chemicals. For us, there is no going back, but now is New York’s chance to set things right for future generations of New Yorkers, to prevent communities from facing what we have, and to protect the public’s health. Anything short of the most stringent MCLs that align with the most recent science would be a failure of government.” 

Nisha Swinton, senior organizer with Food & Water Watch said, “There are no safe levels of PFAS in our drinking water. Governor Cuomo’s proposed standards are strong — but not strong enough. Access to safe, clean drinking water should be considered an essential and fundamental human right. Cuomo's new clean-water rules put New York on the right path. But science tells us that we can — and must — do better.”

Ophra Wolf of the Newburgh Clean Water Project said, “The Department of Health has an obligation to set Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) that are supported by current science. This is an opportunity for New York State to lead the way to protect our most vulnerable populations – especially children and infants – from a lifetime of exposure to these toxic chemicals. Residents need to be able to trust their drinking water sources, and to feel secure that corrective action is being taken if toxic chemicals are present.”

Marion Porterfield, Local Progress NY Co-Chair, and Schenectady City Council Member, said, “Local Progress NY, and our two hundred local elected officials throughout the Empire State, believe that one of the most important services local governments provide is clean, safe drinking water to our constituents. We implore the state Department of Health to create clear guidelines that protect the health of those we represent.”

Mary Anne Kowalski, Research Director at Seneca Lake Guardian, said, “The issue of PFAS and PFOS contamination in drinking water is a pervasive and alarming threat to people across NY State.  Seneca Lake Guardian recently sampled its regional drinking water for PFAS, with results as high as 21.4 ppt., but the contaminants found are not currently regulated within existing recommended standards, so the proposed limits would not be protective.  Seneca Lake Guardian urges the Department of Health to examine the current science that indicates there is no safe level for PFAS and PFOA contaminants in drinking water and do everything in its power to protect the public by acting swiftly to adopt the most stringent standards possible as outlined by our colleagues at NYPIRG, EANY, and FWW.”


Brian Keegan (Environmental Advocates of NY): 518-462-5526, ext. 238; bkeegan@eany.org

Liz Moran (NYPIRG): 518-610-1828; emoran@nypirg.org

Peter Hart (Food & Water Watch): 732-839-0871; phart@fww.org

Ophra Wolf (Newburgh Clean Water Project): ophra@forceandflow.com

Mary Anne Kowalksi (Seneca Lake Guardian): 315-759-3761; maryannekowalski@gmail.com