State Senate Passes Bill to Ensure You Know What’s in Your Water

For Immediate Release: April 27, 2021

Advocates Urge State Assembly to Quickly Follow Suit

Albany, NY – On Tuesday, April 27, the New York State Senate passed a suite of bills to protect clean water, including A.126/S.1759. This legislation, championed by Senator James Skoufis and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, would jump-start testing for emerging contaminants in drinking water across the state. If enacted, 2.5 million New Yorkers would finally find out if there are chemicals in their water that could make them sick.

The Senate’s action comes as Siena College publishes a new poll revealing that 64% of New Yorkers are “very concerned” about water pollution in New York. The NYS Department of Health (DOH) recently issued “Do Not Drink the Water” orders to the Village of Mayville in Chautauqua County as well as four schools in Dutchess and Westchester counties after dangerous levels of toxic PFAS chemicals were detected in their drinking water.

Approximately 2,000 small water utilities in New York have not tested for potentially harmful chemicals like strontium, chromium-6, and many PFAS chemicals, leaving their customers in the dark as to what’s in their drinking water. Following the water crisis in Hoosick Falls in 2015, Governor Cuomo’s administration had promised to close this testing gap.

In 2017, New York enacted the Emerging Contaminant Monitoring Act, which directed DOH to create and regularly update a list of emerging contaminants that every water utility, regardless of size, would be required to test for and notify the public if high levels were discovered. Four years later, however, DOH has failed to implement this landmark law and has not committed to a timeline to begin testing.

The legislation passed by the Senate today lists the first round of chemicals that every water utility must test for, including every detectable PFAS chemical, and sets a 30-day deadline for DOH to begin establishing this program.

“We must do everything in our legislative capacity to protect our most precious resource and today we are doing just that,” said Senator James Skoufis. “I am proud to stand with my colleagues in the Senate and environmental advocates across the state and country as we pass historic legislation here in New York. This is an incredibly important step in protecting the health of all New Yorkers and we must now build on this momentum. For decades, many of my constituents have suffered the consequences of mismanagement of our public waterways. We must do better and now we will. I look forward to continuing to work with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health, my colleagues in the state Legislature, and environmental advocates to ensure access to clean drinking water is protected.”

“Water is fundamental to life, but it is one of our most threatened resources. We are thrilled that the Senate Majority took action today to ensure that water contamination crises do not go undetected. Thanks to Senator Skoufis’s leadership, New Yorkers are one step closer to knowing what’s in their water. We now look forward to the Assembly moving swiftly to pass this legislation before session ends,” said Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water for Environmental Advocates NY.

“For too long, Hoosick Falls residents didn’t know what was in our water. No New Yorker should have to be exposed to toxic chemicals for decades like we were,” said Michelle O’Leary, Hoosick Falls resident and member of the New York Water Project, “Many of us read food labels and have taken steps with this information to protect the wellbeing of our families. We should be able to do the same with our water. Any toxins we are being exposed to need to be found and eliminated. With this bill, New York will finally move forward with a proactive rather than a reactive approach to safeguarding drinking water. It’s been a long time coming.”

Peggy Kurtz, Co-Founder of the Rockland Water Coalition, said, “In Rockland, 8 PFAS chemicals have been detected in our water, but we don’t know whether there are even more PFAS in our water that have not been tested for. It’s not enough to test only for the two PFAS chemicals regulated in New York. Scientists are telling us that many of the unregulated PFAS chemicals are every bit as toxic as the two that are regulated, and pose serious risks to infants and small children. With this bill, testing for all detectable PFAS chemicals would finally begin. We thank Senator Skoufis for his leadership in sponsoring this critical legislation.”

Deborah Brown, member of the Newburgh Clean Water Project, said, “In Newburgh, we have 12 PFAS chemicals in our drinking water sources, which forced us to hook up to New York City water. Our water is threatened by releases from our local air base, from overdevelopment and from the proposed Danskammer fracked-gas power plant. We need our own water back, cleaned and protected. This bill will test for emerging contaminants and fully identify our water problems, the first steps toward getting our water sources cleaned up.”

“After years of sounding the alarm and educating municipalities surrounding Seneca Lake about the dangers of PFAS, we’re thrilled that the State Senate will finally pass a bill to start testing for PFAS chemicals and other emerging contaminants in our drinking water,” said Joseph Campbell, President of Seneca Lake Guardian. “We applaud Senator Skoufis and Assemblymember Gottfried for taking on this issue, and we’re hopeful that the Assembly will quickly pass the bill in an effort to inform all New Yorkers of what’s in their water.”

“Clean water is critical for the health, safety and wellness of our children,” said Dana Platin, President of the NYS Parent Teacher Association. “We truly applaud the Senate for their action in support of children’s health, and look forward to continued action in this session to see this important and necessary legislation is enacted.”

Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the NYS Association of Counties, said, “New York is a national leader in protecting our most precious commodity: drinking water. Emerging contaminants, such as PFAS chemicals, are the greatest threat to the quality of our drinking water in a generation. This legislation expands the list of emerging contaminants to provide more information about what chemicals are in our drinking water so we can take steps to ensure that it is clean and safe to drink.”

“Communities have waited years for this testing. Today, we’re glad they won’t have to wait any longer,” said Newburgh City Councilmember and Local Progress member Karen Mejia. “We applaud the state legislature for taking a crucial step to ensuring communities across New York – in both big cities and small towns – have safe drinking water.”

“Knowledge about what is in our drinking water is critical to public health, and this bill will move New York closer to fulfilling DOH’s long overdue mandate under the Emerging Contaminants Monitoring Act,” said Victoria Leung, Associate Staff Attorney of Riverkeeper, Inc. “We commend the Senate for passing this bill and hope the Assembly will soon follow.”

“All New Yorkers, regardless of where they live, should have the basic right to know what’s in their water,” said Liz Moran, Environmental Policy Director for NYPIRG. “Giving New Yorkers more information about their water empowers them to make healthy choices for themselves and their families, prevents contamination crises, and moves the state towards a path to regulate dangerous contaminants. NYPIRG thanks Senator Skoufis for carrying this legislation and applauds the Senate for passage of this bill – we urge the Assembly to quickly follow suit.”



Press Contacts

EANY: Brian Keegan, [email protected], 518-441-8339

Local Progress / Newburgh City Councilmember Karen Mejia: Trisa Taro, [email protected]