In letter, officials urge state to tighten drinking water standards

County Health Wants Stricter PFOS Controls

The County Health Officials of New York are urging New York State to set a Maximum Containment Level for perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid.

The request underscores the heightening concerns that the contaminants, which are widely used and found in many wells and public water supplies in the county, are considerably more damaging than originally believed. A report recently released by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry finds that human health risks may occur at levels significantly lower than the current federal recommendations.

“New York State has an obligation to provide for the health and welfare of its own residents by setting a state MCL that limits exposure to these dangerous chemicals,” read a letter signed by Stephen Acquario, executive director NYS, Association of Counties, and Paul Pettit, President, NYS Association of County Health Officials, as well as several other science and health professionals, and sent to David Ross, assistant administrator, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The letter writers expressed frustration with the Trump administration’s handling of environmental issues. “Establishing an enforceable MCL is the logical next step for our state to take, as the federal government is not likely to establish an MCL in the near future, especially with the recent resignation by the U.S. EPA Administrator Pruitt creating a bureaucratic obstacle.”

Maximum Contaminant Levels are standards that are set by the EPA for drinking water quality. An MCL is the legal threshold limit on the amount of a substance that is allowed in public water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The two abovementioned contaminants have been around for decades, found in household items made by 3M like Scotchgard and foam fire retardant sprays. PFOS/PFOA went unregulated for years and the state just started testing for it relatively recently. The EPA, in 2018, established the health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion.

“Establishing a MCL for these chemicals is vital to protecting the health, safety, and welfare of New Yorkers. Exposure to 1-4 Dioxane, PFOA, and PFOS has been linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, pre-eclampsia, thyroid disease, developmental defects in fetuses, liver tissue damage, and immune system impairments, among other potentially life-threatening conditions,” the letter reads.

“Additionally, a report recently released by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry finds that human health risks may occur at levels significantly lower than the current federal recommendations. ATSDR’s report recommends setting a MCL to protect the 16 million Americans in 33 states whose drinking water systems are contaminated by PFAS,” the letter continued.

“New York State has an obligation to provide for the health and welfare of its own residents by setting a state MCL that limits exposure to these dangerous chemicals,” the health officials wrote to Ross.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com