Labor, Advocates, Utilities Urge Governor Hochul and State Legislature to Invest in Clean Water Following New EPA Regulations on Toxic PFAS Chemicals

April 11, 2024

Albany, NY – On Thursday April 11, labor unions, PFAS-impacted communities, public health advocates, water utilities, and environmental organizations called on state leaders to include $600 million for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act in the state budget following a historic announcement from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) addressing toxic PFAS chemicals.

On Wednesday April 10, EPA finalized the first-ever federal limits on PFAS in drinking water. The regulations require water utilities nationwide to test for six PFAS chemicals and clean up their drinking water if harmful levels are detected. Also known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS persist in the environment, build up in the human body, and are highly toxic, with exposure linked to thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol, preeclampsia, and many other harmful health effects. EPA determined that there is no safe level of exposure to two PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS.

EPA’s announcement has major implications for New York’s state budget. Governor Hochul has proposed cutting funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act by 50%, from its usual $500 million to $250 million. New York has invested $5 billion in the Clean Water Infrastructure Act since 2017, with $500 million included in each budget since 2019. This funding has helped communities across the state afford essential upgrades to reduce New Yorkers’ exposure to PFAS.

The NYS Department of Health (DOH) estimates that 300 water utilities across New York will exceed EPA’s standards and need to install new treatment technology or identify a new water source, which is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Cutting Clean Water Infrastructure Act funding this year would make it harder for New York to meet the Biden administration’s clean water goals.

Both the State Senate and Assembly restored funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act in their respective budget proposals to at least $500 million. The final budget is currently being negotiated between the Governor and legislative leadership. 

Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water at Environmental Advocates NY, said, “The need to protect clean water across New York is growing, not shrinking. EPA’s historic action to safeguard New Yorkers from toxic PFAS will require hundreds of utilities to make significant upgrades to stop exposure to these “forever chemicals.” Cutting Clean Water Infrastructure Act funding in the state budget would make it harder to protect public health and ensure that every New Yorker has toxic-free water when they turn on the tap. We urge Governor Hochul and the State Legislature to invest $600 million in the Clean Water Infrastructure Act this year.”

John J. Murphy, International Representative for the United Association of Journeymen & Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada and the NYS Pipe Trades Association, said, “EPA has taken a bold step to safeguard our health and our drinking water from toxic PFAS. There is a lot of work to be done installing new treatment technology to eliminate New Yorkers’ exposure to these forever chemicals. Now is not the time to cut funding for clean water in the New York state budget. Reducing aid to impacted communities will make it harder to get these essential infrastructure improvements swiftly off the ground, putting jobs at risk. I urge Governor Hochul and the State Legislature to include full funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act in the final budget, a win-win for public health and the economy.”

Jenny Ingrao, Executive Director of the New York Section of the American Water Works Association, said, “​​As the organization that represents the state’s drinking water professionals, the New York Section of the American Water Works Association (NYSAWWA) is keenly aware that access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water is one of the most basic pillars of our society. New York has led the nation in PFAS regulation, but EPA’s new lower limits for perfluorinated compounds will mean that nearly 300 additional water utilities across New York State will exceed the new lower standards and need to install treatment to remove these substances. The state’s drinking water suppliers are ready to meet this challenge but without funding and support from our state legislators we run the very real risk that water will become simply unaffordable for many New Yorkers.  We need $600M included in the NYS budget now more than ever.”

Kyle Belokopitsky, Executive Director at NYS Parent Teacher Association, offered, “We are thrilled that the EPA took action to protect children and families across NYS. We must work to ensure clean drinking water in all of our school buildings and in our homes, so that families can be assured that the water their children are drinking – no matter where they are – is safe and healthy. NYS must also invest in our Clean Water Infrastructure Act in this budget cycle, to ensure our NYS homes and schools have adequate protections.  There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our children – and that includes their drinking water.”

“The announcement of EPA’s new drinking water standards for PFAS chemicals is a monumental victory for public health and will prevent thousands of cancer cases across the nation. Now we must turn our eyes toward implementing this critical public health protection measure as soon as possible in New York,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE). “Hundreds of communities throughout New York will need to install costly drinking water treatment technology to comply with new federal regulations. A proposed cut to the NYS Clean Water Infrastructure Act, which funds these projects, could not come at a worse time. New York State must do its part to protect our drinking water from dangerous PFAS chemicals by fully funding the Clean Water Infrastructure Act in the final 2024-25 state budget.”

Kyle Conway, Vice President of the Newburgh-Highland Falls Chapter of the NAACP, said, “Water is a finite resource. We cannot afford to treat any body of fresh drinking water as an expendable luxury, as if the planet has this type of water so readily available. Our state government has an acute need to protect its citizens; that’s why Governor Hochul and the State Legislature should grow, and not cut, funding for clean water in the state budget. This will help create a healthy environment for generations to come. We need our state leaders to support funding to address the forever chemicals that have caused so much damage to our environment and our bodies.”

“EPA has taken an excellent first step today toward safeguarding our drinking water.  In Rockland County, nearly every one of more than sixty public drinking water sources is contaminated with PFAS chemicals, including eight PFAS chemicals in all. These broader and stricter regulations will provide much stronger protection and will go a long way toward ensuring safer water for Rockland residents,” said Peggy Kurtz, Co-Founder of the Rockland Water Coalition.  “At a time when communities across the state will need to spend millions of dollars to meet these new standards, it would be a mistake to cut funding for water infrastructure. We urge Governor Hochul and the Legislature to include $600 million in funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act in the final budget.”

Jennifer Rawlison, Steering Committee Member of the Newburgh Clean Water Project, said, “EPA’s announcement is the culmination of years of advocacy by PFAS-impacted communities like Newburgh. Too many communities across New York are still exposed to toxic PFAS when they turn on the tap, putting the health of their families at risk. The costs of removing these forever chemicals should not fall on the backs of ratepayers who have already suffered enough. I urge Governor Hochul and the State Legislature to include full funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act in the state budget to ensure every New Yorker has safe drinking water.”

Claudia Kavenah, a member of the Petersburgh C8 PFAS Advisory Group, said, “EPA’s new regulations are a huge and welcome step forward in our fight. But small rural communities like ours really need the full support of New York State to protect the health of our communities from unsafe drinking water. We urge the Governor to ensure sufficient financial resources for our many private well homeowners as well as for the water utilities.”

“We applaud the federal government for releasing first-of-its-kind protections from toxic PFAS, which are an increasing concern here in the Finger Lakes Region,” said Yvonne Taylor, Co-Founder and Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian. “Monitoring for PFAS is more important now than ever as the largest landfill in New York State, Seneca Meadows, produces nearly 70,000 million gallons of PFAS-laden leachate every year that gets discharged, untreated, into waterways across New  York State. As the EPA takes this historic step forward, we urge Governor Kathy Hochul to heed the warnings from federal agencies responsible for protecting the public about the devastating consequences of PFAS in our drinking water. Cutting clean water funding from our state budget gives a green light to polluters and poses significant health risks to New Yorkers. Once these “forever chemicals” enter our drinking water sources, the damage cannot be reversed.”

Peg Munves, Co-Chair of the New Lebanon Conservation Advisory Council, said, “All corners of New York State want and need clean drinking water. New York has shown great and important initiative for finding and eradicating “forever” chemicals. The time is now to continue to invest in clean water infrastructure and not cut funding. We must keep the momentum going especially in light of the new EPA regulations on PFAS. Very small towns to the largest cities in New York State are all affected by PFAS chemicals. My all-well town of under 3,000, and many other small towns, are currently conducting Drinking Source Water Protection Plans which are part of the NYS DEC’s safe water initiatives. We are learning exactly what is in our wells so we know how to keep our water safe. We are playing catch up after decades of not knowing what is in our water. There are myriad small towns like ours also playing catch up on water quality. Please keep NY State a leader for our drinking water safety now and into the future.”

Said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters:
The EPA’s new regulations on PFAS chemicals in drinking water are a historic step forward for public health. By mandating two things – observation, followed by solutions – these new measures will spell peace of mind for millions of New Yorkers. NYLCV applauds President Biden for stepping up to tackle what previous administrations have failed to do & ensuring clean drinking water is treated like the fundamental right that it is. This news also underscores the importance of restoring the $250M cut to the state CWIA and of adding additional $100M to address legacy and emerging contaminant drinking water issues.”

Eric Weltman, Senior Organizer, Food & Water Watch, said, “The EPA’s new PFAS rules are a step toward safer water and a call to action to provide the funding necessary to protect our drinking water. At the federal level, that means passing the WATER Act. In New York, Governor Hochul and the State Legislature must invest $600 million in the Clean Water Infrastructure Act this year. While we applaud the EPA for not bowing to industry pressure to weaken the regulations, this marks the beginning — not the culmination — of efforts to rein in toxic PFAS.”

“The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter applauds the strong action taken by the EPA to strengthen the drinking water standards for citizens around the United States by addressing these toxic PFAS chemicals,” said Caitlin Ferrante, Conservation Program Manager, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “As we work to rid these forever chemicals from everyday products and exposures, there will be an increase in the need to filter these chemicals out of NY’s drinking water. Now is not the time to be cutting critical Clean Water Infrastructure (CWIA) funding. The Governor and Legislature should be investing no less than $600 million in the CWIA of this year’s state budget.” 

“Funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act is essential for the health, safety, and well-being of communities throughout the state. We cannot afford to cut this funding, and in fact, need to increase it given the significant needs across New York. We urge Governor Hochul and the State Legislature to include at least $600 million for clean water projects in this year’s state budget,” said Jessica Ottney Mahar, policy and strategy director for The Nature Conservancy in New York.

Jill Ryan, Freshwater Future’s Executive Director, said “This is a great first step for protecting public and environmental health from forever chemicals. However, there is much work to be done to ensure that drinking water and source waters are protected from the many thousands of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Now is the time to be investing in critical infrastructure improvements to support our public water utilities in removing PFAS from our drinking water. We request that Governor Hochul and the New York Legislature invest $600 million in the Clean Water Infrastructure Act this year.”

“Riverkeeper applauds the EPA’s announcement of its new federal drinking water regulations for six PFAS chemicals. However, it will require significant investment from New York State to meet these standards, which is exactly why now is the wrong time for the governor to propose halving water infrastructure funding,” said Jeremy Cherson, Senior Manager of Government Affairs for Riverkeeper. “A final budget agreement must recognize the magnitude of EPA’s new actions and the resources required to protect our residents by allocating $600 million for water infrastructure.”

Liz Moran, New York Policy Advocate for Earthjustice, said, “With EPA setting much-needed drinking water standards for several toxic PFAS chemicals, New Yorkers are depending upon the Governor and the Legislature to meet the urgency of the moment with increased clean water funding. Millions of New Yorkers have been exposed to unsafe levels of PFAS in their drinking water and funding is needed to ensure that millions more are not. With water needs in New York totaling billions, New Yorkers need the final 2024 budget to include at least $600 million for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act.”

“The Biden Administration’s decision to restrict PFAS chemicals in drinking water is one of the most significant public health measures in a generation. But the federal government cannot fight PFAS alone,” said Kate Donovan, Northeast Environmental Health Director for Natural Resources Defense Council. “We also need robust state funding programs to support communities and local governments, turn off the tap to PFAS use upstream, and hold polluters accountable. New York State can and must be a leader in the effort to rid our drinking water of toxic PFAS chemicals. We call on Governor Hochul and the State Legislature to ensure $600 million is invested in the Clean Water Infrastructure Act in the final budget.”

“We exist in a world where we have accepted the fact that society willingly pollutes its own drinking water, and our modern regulatory systems allow thousands of chemical constituents to be put into use without adequate analysis and safeguards to protect human health or the environment”, said Jill Jedlicka, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director. “However, with this announcement today from the Biden-Harris Administration, we are seeing the strongest action that EPA has taken to improve drinking water standards in decades and we applaud the work of advocates, scientists and the federal government who have all worked hard to get us here.” 

“We are thrilled to hear the EPA has finalized federal limits on PFAS for drinking water as this will positively affect various communities across the country,” said Ivan Luevanos-Elms, Executive Director at Local Progress. “We hope New York can support its local governments throughout the state by upholding critical funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act.”

Carli Fraccarolli, State Policy Manager for Scenic Hudson, said, “Currently, New York communities need at least $80 billion in funding to update water infrastructure, remove toxins from their drinking water, and address the impacts of climate change. Scenic Hudson applauds the EPA for placing federal limits on toxic PFAS in drinking water, and acknowledges that communities across the state will need additional funding to test and treat their water to meet those critically important limits. The Clean Water Infrastructure Act (CWIA) is New York’s premier source of funding for clean water initiatives, but it is at risk of a 50% reduction from current annual appropriations in this year’s NYS budget. With these new drinking water regulations, it is even clearer that now is not the time to decrease funding for the CWIA. Instead, Scenic Hudson strongly supports $600 million for the CWIA, which will enable NYS to tackle longstanding threats to clean water in our state such as lead, while also addressing more emergent threats like PFAS.”

David Ansel, vice president of water protection, Save the Sound: “We are encouraged that the federal government and the EPA took this important step to protect people across the country from the harmful consequences of PFAS exposure. There are thousands of these forever chemicals in hundreds of consumer products. In New York, we are working to pass legislation calling for the removal of PFAS from a host of these everyday products. We will continue to push the state legislature and Governor Hochul for laws that aggressively and comprehensively phase out the use of PFAS and protect the people in the Long Island Sound region and across the state.”

Press Contacts:

Brian Keegan, EANY Communications Director, (518) 462-5526, [email protected]

Adrienne Esposito, CCE Executive Director, 631-384-1378, [email protected]