ALBANY — The State Senate passed a suite of bills that would jump-start testing for emerging contaminants in drinking water across the state.
The legislation passed by the senate on Tuesday, April 27, 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. If enacted, 2.5 million New Yorkers would finally find out if there are chemicals in their water that could make them sick.
“New York is a national leader in protecting our most precious commodity: drinking water,” said Stephen Acquario, executive director of the NYS Association of Counties. “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.”
The Senate’s action comes as Siena College published a poll revealing 64 percent of New Yorkers are “very concerned” about water pollution in New York. The NYS Department of Health 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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”