NYS Department of Health Ignores EPA Science, Moves Ahead with Weak Drinking Water Regulations

For Immediate Release: October 5, 2022

Proposes Weaker PFAS Standards than Massachusetts, Maine, Other States

 Albany – Today, the New York State Health Department (DOH) released draft regulations to 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.

Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water with Environmental Advocates NY said, “Under this proposal, at least half a million New Yorkers will continue to drink water contaminated with PFAS, even though EPA has confirmed there is no safe level of exposure to some of these toxic chemicals. Since this proposal does not demonstrate the clean water leadership that New Yorkers need, Governor Hochul must step in. She should direct the Department of Health to lower New York’s drinking water standards on toxic PFAS to as close to zero as possible. Why should New Yorkers receive weaker protections against these toxic chemicals than people living in Massachusetts, Maine, and Michigan?”

The NYS Department of Health proposed setting:

  • A combined Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 30 parts per trillion (ppt), which would cover 6 PFAS chemicals: PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA, and PFDA;
  • Individual MCLs of 10 ppt each for PFHxS, PFNA, PFHpA, and PFDA;
  • A Notification Level (NL) of 10 ppt for GenX;
  • A combined NL of 30 ppt for 6 PFAS chemicals, including GenX; and
  • A combined NL of 100 ppt for 13 PFAS chemicals.

MCLs require statewide testing by water utilities, and public notification and drinking water cleanup if exceeded. Under a combined MCL, the individual levels of each PFAS covered by the combined MCL are added together to determine if there is an exceedance. NLs also require statewide testing, but only require public notification if exceeded.

The proposed combined MCL of 30 ppt is weaker than combined MCLs covering the same group of PFAS in other Northeastern states. Massachusetts has established a combined MCL of 20 ppt for the same 6 PFAS (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, PFHpA, and PFDA), and Maine in the process of following the same course. Vermont currently has a combined MCL of 20 ppt for 5 PFAS. In addition, Michigan has established stronger individual PFAS MCLs than what New York is proposing, including a 6 ppt MCL for PFNA and an 8 ppt MCL for PFOA.


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. Communities that have exceeded the state’s current drinking water limits include Hoosick Falls, Newburgh, and many water utilities on Long Island, in addition to more recent exceedances in Poestenkill and New Lebanon.

In June, the US Environmental Protection Agency released new health advisories of 0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS. These levels are so low as to be essentially zero, confirming that there is no safe level of PFOA or PFOS exposure.  

New York currently allows 10 ppt of PFOA and 10 ppt of PFOS in drinking water. Those levels are hundreds of times higher than what EPA now says is safe. The proposed regulations do not strengthen New York’s current PFOA and PFOS MCLs or the other PFAS standards in light of EPA’s new science. Advocates have argued that other PFAS need to be zeroed out in drinking water as well given their similarities to PFOA and PFOS.

According to a review of a selection of statewide testing data, almost half-a-million New Yorkers are currently drinking PFAS-polluted water, but at levels below the current or proposed standards. The list of approximately 20 identified water utilities can be found on pages 3-5 of a letter recently sent to the Governor and DOH. Under these proposed regulations these utilities would not be required to clean up their water, leaving New Yorkers at increased risk of developing serious illness.