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Groups Ask NYS to Set Maximum Levels for Chemicals in Water

A groundwater sample in Hoosick Falls found PFOA at 130,000 parts per trillion. (com77380/Pixabay)
A groundwater sample in Hoosick Falls found PFOA at 130,000 parts per trillion. (com77380/Pixabay)
July 3, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. – Environmental, civic and research groups are calling on New York State to set maximum levels of unregulated industrial chemicals in drinking water.

More than a dozen groups have signed on to a letter asking the Department of Health and the Drinking Water Quality Council to establish maximum contaminant levels for PFOA, used in making Teflon, and PFOS, used in firefighting foam. The chemicals, associated with a number of cancers and other diseases, have been showing up in drinking water around the state.

According to Liz Moran, the water and natural resources director at Environmental Advocates of New York, they're asking the state to set a combined limit for those two chemicals at four parts-per-trillion.

"This is the level that would align with recent studies that show anything above seven parts per trillion may be unsafe for public health," she says.

The current federal guideline for PFOA and PFOS is 70 parts-per-trillion, but several states, including New Jersey and Vermont, are acting to set levels that are much lower.

Moran says New York's Drinking Water Quality Council was set to take up maximum levels for the chemicals at a meeting in March, but that meeting was canceled and hasn't been rescheduled.

"Time is really of the essence because the longer people are exposed at unsafe levels to chemicals like PFOA and PFOS, the greater the likelihood that they could get sick," she stresses.

The groups also are asking for maximum limits for 14-dioxane, a chemical found in detergents that's linked to liver and kidney disease and cancers.

Legislation passed in the 2018 budget requires the Drinking Water Quality Council to set maximum limits for all three chemicals by the end of the year. Moran points out that such regulations make those limits legally enforceable.

"Any level higher than that will not be tolerated," she adds. "It is the only guaranteed way to assure the public that the levels of a chemical in their water are not going to be unsafe for them."

Testing in the town of Hoosick Falls, northeast of Albany, last year found a PFOA concentration of 130,000 parts per trillion in at least one groundwater sample.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY