Governor Hochul Urged to Lower Proposed Levels for PFAS Notification/Cleanup

May 2, 2022

Current proposals will leave some New Yorkers in the dark as to what “forever chemicals” are in their water

Levels should be set at 2 ppt, the lowest point these toxic chemicals can be reliably detected

Albany, NY – Today, as the NYS Drinking Water Quality Council prepared to meet, advocates urged Governor Hochul’s Department of Health (DOH) to lower proposed drinking water levels for 23 PFAS chemicals, so that whenever these PFAS are detected in drinking water, the public receives a letter in the mail about it.

PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” have polluted drinking water across New York. There are at least 9,000 chemicals in the PFAS family. Of the PFAS that can currently be detected in drinking water, many have been linked to various cancers and other illnesses.

DOH has proposed Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) of 10 parts per trillion (ppt) each for four PFAS chemicals. DOH has also proposed notification levels of 200 ppt for several other PFAS chemicals. MCLs require public notification and drinking water cleanup if exceeded; notification levels only require public notification if exceeded. The Council is expected to take a formal vote recommending what MCLs and notification levels DOH should set for 23 PFAS at the meeting today.

All of DOH’s proposals far exceed 2 ppt, the level that nation-leading PFAS scientists and public health experts have called on DOH to establish. There is no known safe level of PFAS exposure; infants and fetuses are especially at risk. Water utilities can reliably detect these PFAS down to 2 ppt.

For example, New Yorkers could have 199 ppt of PFHxA, a PFAS chemical linked to thyroid disease and other illnesses, in their water. Under DOH’s proposal, however, those New Yorkers would not receive a letter in the mail about the contamination, and would lack the awareness to ask questions of their water utility or take steps to protect their health.

“I urge Governor Hochul and the NYSDOH to set the notification levels for the most toxic PFAS chemicals as low as possible as it has been widely demonstrated that there are no safe levels of exposure,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the New York Senate Health Committee. “We must strengthen our State’s drinking water standards and protect the health of all New Yorkers who are mostly unaware of their exposure to these harmful contaminants.”

State Senator James Skoufis said, “Setting low notification levels will allow our communities to detect and respond to incidents of water contamination early, before these chemicals wreak widespread havoc on our water systems and our physical health. I urge the Drinking Water Quality Council to prioritize New Yorkers’ wellbeing by establishing notification levels recommended by nation-leading public health experts.”

Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water with Environmental Advocates NY, said, “New Yorkers deserve to know what’s in their water. But Governor Hochul’s administration is proposing to keep many New Yorkers in the dark about their exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals. The Department of Health has proposed drinking water standards for several PFAS that are 100 times higher than what nation-leading scientists have recommended. We need Governor Hochul to fulfill her commitment to greater transparency and regulate PFAS at 2 parts per trillion, the most health-protective level.”

Jennifer Plouffe, Hoosick Falls residents and New York Water Project member, said, “If we have learned anything from Hoosick Falls, the sooner that drinking water is tested, the better. But testing isn’t enough; community members need to be notified. You can’t fix a problem you don’t know about. Ignorance is not bliss. We need Governor Hochul to put human well being over profit: set the lowest MCLs and notification levels for toxic PFAS. Seven years after Hoosick Falls’ water crisis came to light, the kids and infants who were exposed to PFAS are still dealing with negative physical effects. Governor Hochul has an ethical responsibility to make sure water is safe to drink and prevent this from happening to any other community.”

“As evidenced in Hoosick Falls, once exposure happens, it’s already too late to reverse bioaccumulation and potential health harms. Setting MCLs and notification levels at the lowest detectable levels should be a given as there are more than enough health studies evidencing toxicity, particularly on the thyroid, immune system and endocrine disruption. Those effects alone, particularly in children, should be alarming enough to regulate PFAS as a combined group as other states have done, or better yet by class, as agreed upon by the most renowned scientists in the field. The full body burden of the combined mixtures we can ill afford, literally, and that by necessity has to be fully considered in any regulatory decisions. It’s the only way to be truly protective of the health of all our families,” said Loreen Hackett, PfoaProject NY, Hoosick Falls.

“Unfortunately we failed to use the precautionary principle to prevent PFAS from getting into drinking water supplies, including in the City of Newburgh, Hoosick Falls and Rockland County – but it’s not too late to protect people from consequences of exposure by setting more protective MCLs of 2 ppt and lowering notification levels, so impacted communities have information to make informed decisions and for their water providers to install appropriate treatment technologies,” noted Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Director with Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

“Scientific studies have shown us time and time again that standards established to supposedly protect public health on lead, arsenic, dioxin, and other chemicals were in fact putting people at risk and causing serious health effects,” said Anne Rabe, Environmental Policy Director of NYPIRG. “It is incumbent on the Department of Health to learn from their terrible mistakes at Hoosick Falls and other contaminated communities where people unknowingly drank polluted water for many months. DOH must prevent future human suffering and disease, by establishing the lowest possible standard for PFAS chemicals as a group –  approximately 2 parts per trillion. Anything above that level is an unacceptable health risk.”

List of PFAS to be regulated with MCLs:

perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)

perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS)

Perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA)

perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA)

List of PFAS to be regulated with notification levels:

perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS)

hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA)

Perfluorododecanoic acid (PFDoA)

Perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA)

Perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnA)

11-chloroeicosafluoro-3-oxaundecane-1-sulfonic acid (11Cl-PF3OUdS)

9-chlorohexadecafluoro-3-oxanonane-1-sulfonic acid (9Cl-PF3ONS)

4,8-dioxa-3H-perfluorononanoic acid (ADONA)

Nonafluoro-3,6-dioxaheptanoic acid (NFDHA)

Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA)

1H, 1H, 2H, 2HPerfluorodecane sulfonic acid (8:2FTS)

Perfluoro(2-ethoxyethane)sulfonic acid (PFEESA)

Perfluoroheptanesulfonic acid (PFHpS)

1H,1H, 2H, 2H-Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (4:2FTS)

Perfluoro-3-methoxypropanoic acid (PFMPA)

Perfluoro-4-methoxybutanoic acid (PFMBA)

1H,1H, 2H, 2H-Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (6:2FTS)

Perfluoropentanoic acid (PFPeA)

Perfluoropentanesulfonic acid (PFPeS)