U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today announced that, following her push, essential legislation for safe drinking water and key provisions for New York’s water resources are included in two pieces of water infrastructure legislation recently approved by the EPW Committee: the 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. The Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 includes the bipartisan Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act, which Senator Gillibrand introduced with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Senator Gillibrand also pushed to secure dam safety provisions to facilitate the flow of funding to rehabilitate high hazard potential dams in New York and language directing the Army Corps to prioritize funding to expedite the Caño Martin Peña project in San Juan, Puerto Rico—both provisions were successfully included in WRDA by the EPW Committee.
“I am very pleased that these important provisions are included in the legislation voted out of committee,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “New Yorkers should be able to trust that their water is safe, but far too many communities across the state, and country, have had their water supplies polluted by toxic PFAS chemicals. This legislation would require the EPA to finalize rules that would regulate PFAS chemicals in our drinking water — it is absolutely critical to protecting our communities. I’m proud that this legislation and other critical provisions are included so that functional, clean, and safe water infrastructure is protected for every community.”
The Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act as included in the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act would require the EPA to issue drinking water regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFOA and PFOS, which are two high priority per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have been detected in drinking water sources in New York. PFAS are a group of thousands of manufactured chemicals that can seep into drinking water supplies and have contaminated waterways in New York and across the country. These toxic chemicals have been linked to cancers and other serious health and developmental effects. Reporting has shown that potentially more than 19 million Americans are using public water systems exposed to PFAS contamination, yet the EPA has not moved quickly enough to create regulatory standards to protect Americans from this serious health hazard.
Senator Gillibrand also fought to include language to improve the federal Rehabilitation of High Hazard Potential Dams Grant Program, which funds projects to repair dams that, if they were to fail, would cause damage to lives and property. The provision would make it less burdensome for federal funding to flow to local governments and non-governmental dam owners that are responsible for maintaining their dams, as many of the high hazard potential dams in New York are not directly owned or maintained by the state or federal governments. The senator also successfully pushed to include language directing the Army Corps to expedite the Caño Martin Peña project in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Gillibrand has pushed for years for funding to move this important ecosystem restoration project forward, which will clean up the toxic waterway in San Juan and address frequent flooding that has plagued the surrounding community.
In addition to these provisions, Senator Gillibrand previously announced the inclusion of her Promoting Infrastructure and Protecting the Economy (PIPE) Act. The PIPE Act, as included in the recently approved water infrastructure bills, would create two new grant programs to help communities in New York and across the country invest in critical wastewater and drinking water system upgrades. Specifically, the PIPE Act would require the EPA to establish new discretionary grant programs for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and authorizes $50 million in annual funding for each program. It would allow state, local, and tribal governments and public water utilities to apply for these grants for projects to bolster drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. The PIPE Act would also assist small and rural projects compete for funds by allowing multiple projects to be bundled and by capping the maximum amount of the total funding any one state can receive at 20% in each fiscal year to ensure grants are spent on a mix of rural, suburban, and urban projects.