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New Bill Aims to Protect NY Drinking Water

For small towns, the EPA does not require testing drinking water for emerging contaminants. (Daniel Case [CC BY-SA 3.0 (])
For small towns, the EPA does not require testing drinking water for emerging contaminants. (Daniel Case [CC BY-SA 3.0 (])
June 5, 2019

ALBANY, N.Y. – Many drinking-water sources in New York state are not tested for a variety of dangerous chemicals, but a new bill in the State Assembly could remedy that.

Every few years, the federal Environmental Protection Agency publishes a list of emerging contaminants - chemicals determined to be dangerous to human health - for which drinking water should be tested. However, water supplies serving fewer than 10,000 people are not tested for those newly listed chemicals.

Maureen Cunningham, senior director for clean water at Environmental Advocates of New York, said the bill, A-7839, would establish a list of chemicals that all public water supplies should be tested for, and set a deadline for the New York State Department of Health to implement testing.

"That includes PFOA and PFAS in addition to other chemicals that are known to occur in New York state from that latest round of EPA testing," she said.

PFOA and PFAS, used in nonstick cookware and other products, wasn't discovered in the drinking water in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., until a town resident had the water tested himself. Hoosick Falls has fewer than 4,000 residents.

Cunningham said failing to test the public water supplies of smaller towns can put many New Yorkers at risk.

"There's 2,700 smaller systems under 10,000 people, serving roughly 2.5 million New Yorkers," she said.

She said those communities still may not know if dangerous chemicals are in their drinking water. In September 2016, 1,001 days ago, Cunningham noted, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration sent a letter to the EPA saying it would close the loophole that allows smaller water systems to go untested. However, nothing has changed - until now.

"The legislation takes that step by establishing the emerging contaminant list and encouraging DOH to test for these chemicals in all public water systems in New York, and not just the larger systems," Cunningham said.

Legislators are to join with environmentalists and other groups at the state Capitol building today to call for immediate action on Assembly Bill A-7839. The bill's text is online at

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY