New York, Connecticut signal push to address PFAS

New York, Connecticut signal push to address PFAS

Source: Water Policy Report, July 22, 2019
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Two Northeastern states are pushing ahead to respond to the growing public concern over the emerging contaminants per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), adding to the number of states unwilling to wait for EPA regulatory action.

In the latest move, New York last week announced it will soon propose the nation’s strictest drinking water standards for two commonly found PFAS and will set a first-in-the-nation drinking water level for 1,4-dioxane — all emerging contaminants that have prompted concern from the public, lawmakers and others over their presence in drinking water systems.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced July 8 that the state would move forward on its Drinking Water Quality Council’s recommendations to propose standards for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) — two of the most common PFAS — of 10 parts per trillion (ppt).

If adopted, New York’s maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) will be the strictest in the nation and slightly more stringent than those recently proposed by New Jersey. They will also be significantly stricter than EPA’s voluntary limit of 70 ppt for the two chemicals combined, which was set in 2016.

In addition, New York will propose an MCL of 1 part per billion (ppb) for 1,4-dioxane in drinking water.

New York plans to propose drinking water standards, known as MCLs, for PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-dioxane in a July 24 notice, triggering a 60-day public comment period.

“We’re proposing the most protective levels in the nation for three emerging contaminants to ensure we are regularly testing and fixing water systems before they ever rise to a public health risk in any part of the state,” Cuomo says in a July 8 press release. “New York State will continue to lead in the absence of federal action by ensuring all residents have access to clean drinking water and by investing in critical projects to assist municipalities in treating these emerging contaminants.”

New York in the release says its proposal takes into account the fact that all adults in the United States already have a “body burden,” or some level of exposure to these or related chemicals. PFOA was primarily used to make non-stick, stain resistant and water repellant products while PFOS has been used in fire-fighting foam, it says.

PFAS, a class of thousands of persistent, toxic chemicals, have drawn significant public scrutiny and calls for regulation after being discovered in drinking water supplies around the country. The chemicals have been linked to adverse health effects including certain cancers, thyroid conditions and other issues.

In addition, the proposed 1 ppb MCL for 1,4-dioxane follows through on advice from the state Drinking Water Quality Council, and follows New York’s approval of a new treatment technology, Advanced Oxidative Process, for remediating the chemical.

Cuomo also announced the availability of $350 million in grants for municipalities to use for water quality improvement projects, including to respond to emerging contaminants such as PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-dioxane. And he announced $27 million in grants to support nine Long Island project to remove PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane from water systems.

In addition, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) July 8 announced the formation of an interagency workgroup to study PFAS issues, prepping the state to implement an action plan that he says will aim to minimize exposures to the chemicals, minimize PFAS releases, and identify, assess and remediate historical releases.

“With the current absence of federal regulations governing the exposure, use and disposal of PFAS, the burden is on individual states to take measures to educate their residents about the risks associated with exposure to PFAS and to implement appropriate safeguards,” he says in a July 8 letter to the heads of state agencies on the workgroup.

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