For Immediate Release: December 12, 2023
Today, advocates gathered to demand that Governor Hochul and the NYS Department of Health (DOH) strengthen draft regulations that will establish drinking water standards on 23 toxic PFAS chemicals. The levels set for these standards will determine when PFAS contamination is cleaned up and when New Yorkers are directly notified about what’s in their water. The public comment period recently closed on December 5 on DOH’s proposed regulations.
At least 400,000 New Yorkers in the Hudson Valley are currently drinking PFAS-polluted water, but at levels below New York’s current or proposed standards. The list includes communities like Ossining, Peekskill, Croton-On-Hudson, the Town of Newburgh, and Veolia Water in Rockland County (for the full list, see the bottom of the press release or pages 12-15 of this letter). Under DOH’s proposed regulations, utilities serving these communities would not be required to clean up their water, leaving Hudson Valley residents at increased risk of developing serious illness.
In June, the US EPA released new health advisories for two PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, that declared that there is essentially no safe level of exposure to these “forever chemicals.” DOH, however, failed to propose lowering New York’s current drinking water standards on PFOA and PFOS of 10 parts per trillion (ppt) each, which are hundreds of times higher than EPA’s advisories. In addition, DOH has proposed other PFAS standards that are weaker than what states like Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and Michigan have adopted.
PFAS exposure has been linked to thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancer, low birth weight, and other harmful illnesses. PFAS chemicals have been detected at dangerous levels in hundreds of communities across New York.
Senator Pete Harckham said, “PFAS are among the most toxic and harmful chemicals known to humankind and their presence in our fragile drinking water supplies is simply unacceptable. If we are going to be serious about safeguarding our residents from these contaminants, then we must be doing everything possible to eliminate their use and reckless disposal in our environment.”
Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick said, “The health of New Yorkers demands strong leadership by our Department of Health. While we have made important progress in tightening standards for PFAS and other dangerous chemicals and directing the DOH to establish a list of emerging contaminants, more must be done. We must be vigilant in continuing to update our regulations to reflect the latest scientific understanding of the risk of PFAS and other “forever chemicals” so we can protect our drinking water quality and the health of New Yorkers.”
Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson said, “When it comes to “forever” chemicals, we must be forever vigilant. That means adhering to the science, which means the Department of Health must heed the EPA’s current advisories and strengthen our standards regarding PFAS chemicals. Only then can we ensure the safety of New York’s drinking water and the health of our residents.”
Jen Rawlison, Steering Committee Member of the Newburgh Clean Water Project, said, “In Newburgh, we know the terrible consequences of drinking PFAS-polluted water. Now, new data has revealed that many other communities in the Hudson Valley are exposed to dangerous levels of PFAS. But the Department of Health’s newly-proposed PFAS standards would NOT require this contamination to be cleaned up. Governor Hochul, you must strengthen these PFAS standards before they are finalized and get these forever chemicals out of our water. Don’t keep New Yorkers exposed to PFAS for decades like we were in Newburgh.”
Peggy Kurtz, Executive Committee Member for Sierra Club’s Lower Hudson Group, said, “We call on the Governor and the Dept. of Health to revise the draft regulations to be much more protective of public health.If the draft regulations are adopted, many of Rockland’s contaminated wells would remain unfiltered for PFAS, leaving all of us exposed for decades to come to multiple PFAS. It is time for a precautionary approach. We face a situation with PFAS chemicals that is similar to lead, mercury, and asbestos years ago: widely used, highly useful chemicals that nonetheless had to be strictly regulated because of their toxicity. It wasn’t until lead was strictly regulated that blood levels of lead began to drop precipitously. We can and must do the same with PFAS.”
Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Action Director for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, said, “Fifty years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, which was enacted primarily to ensure clean drinking water, we are struggling with emerging contaminants – highly polluting chemicals that were used widely and assumed to be benign until proven otherwise. Now it is up to the NYS Department of Health to ensure safe drinking water for all New Yorkers by lowering the standards for PFOS and PFAS to align with EPA’s health advisories and the more protective standards already in place in Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island of 20 ppt combined PFAS MCL.”
Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water with Environmental Advocates NY said, “Under this proposal, New Yorkers in the Hudson Valley will continue to drink water contaminated with PFAS. This proposal is not the clean water leadership that is needed at this moment. Governor Hochul must direct the Department of Health to lower New York’s drinking water standards on toxic PFAS to as close to zero as possible.”
Background Information on Hudson Valley PFAS Contamination
The following Hudson Valley water utilities detected PFAS chemicals in their drinking water in 2021, but not at levels above New York’s current or proposed PFAS standards. Because of this, these water utilities would not be required to clean up their drinking water if NYS DOH finalizes their PFAS standards as proposed. All of these systems detected PFOA at levels at least 1,000 times higher than EPA’s health advisory, or detected PFOS at levels at least 100 times higher than EPA’s health advisory.
The following levels are the maximum detected by each water system in 2021, and have been rounded for readability. The results were taken from each system’s 2021 Annual Water Quality Report, which is linked in the table.
It is important to note that these are only some of the Hudson Valley communities exposed to PFAS. It is impossible to review every Annual Water Quality Report that New York’s approximately 3,500 water utilities produce; many of these reports, especially for smaller utilities, are not even available online. Moreover, the amount of contamination in the chart is also an underestimate; many of these systems may have detected other PFAS beyond PFOA and PFOS but did not report them, or may not have tested for the full suite of 29 PFAS currently detectable with US EPA methods.
|Water System||Population Served||Maximum PFOA (2021)||Maximum PFOS (2021)||Maximum Other PFAS Reported (2021)|
|Village of Ossining (Indian Brook Reservoir)||30,000||7 ppt||3 ppt||PFHpA (2 ppt), PFNA (2 ppt), PFHxA (2 ppt), PFHxS (1 ppt), PFBS (1 ppt)|
|Peekskill City||24,272||6 ppt||3 ppt|
|Newburgh Water District||23,000||4 ppt||4 ppt|
|United Wappinger Water District (Hilltop Wellfield)||14,000||5 ppt||8 ppt|
|Mount Kisco Village (Leonard Park Wells)||9,600||5 ppt||2 ppt||PFBS (5 ppt), PFHxA (2 ppt), PFHpA (2 ppt), PFHxS (1 ppt)|
|Bedford Water District||9,056||3 ppt||4 ppt||PFHxS (6 ppt), PFHxA (2 ppt), PFBS (1 ppt), PFHpA (1 ppt)|
|Croton-on-Hudson Village||8,000||7 ppt||8 ppt||PFBS (8 ppt), PFHxS (5 ppt), PFHxA (2 ppt), PFNA (2 ppt)|
|Brinkerhoff Water District||3,788||9 ppt||9 ppt|
|Chester Village||3,448||6 ppt||2 ppt|
|Greenwood Lake Village||3,083||6 ppt||7 ppt|
|Town of Warwick Westside Water District||1,700||7 ppt||7 ppt||PFBA (3 ppt), PFBS (3 ppt), PFPeA (2 ppt), PFHxA (2 ppt), PFHxS (2 ppt), PFNA (1 ppt), PFHpA (1 ppt)|
|Carmel Water District 8||1,600||9 ppt||3 ppt|
|Suez/Veolia Rockland Well Number||Combined Level of PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, PFHpA, and PFDA||Total PFAS|
|#78||18 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHpA)||32 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHpA, PFBS, PFHxA)|
|#97||18 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA)||20 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxA)|
|#28||17 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFHpA)||24 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFHpA, PFHxA, PFBS)|
|#106||16 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHpA)||21 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHpA, PFBS, PFHxA)|
|#66||15 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFHpA, PFHxS)||17 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFHpA, PFHxS, PFHxA)|
|#55||13 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFHpA)||17 ppt (PFOA, PFOS, PFHpA, PFHxA)|