Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, today announced legislation that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a maximum contaminant level for perfluorinated compounds (including PFOA and PFOS), 1,4 dioxane, and perchlorate in public water systems. Currently, these chemicals are unregulated under the Safe Water Drinking Act and this legislation would require the EPA to create safety guidelines and determine legally enforceable standards that apply to public water systems.
“We’ve seen very clearly how much damage can happen to our local drinking water supplies when toxic chemicals like PFOA, PFOS, 1,4 dioxane, and perchlorate aren’t monitored by the EPA,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “My legislation would require the EPA to come up with strong and enforceable safety standards for these toxins, so that no other community has to experience what Hoosick Falls, Newburgh, and Long Island have gone through over the last year. New Yorkers should be able to drink water without having to worry about whether it’s safe. Anything less than that standard is unacceptable.”
“When it comes to drinking water from Hoosick Falls to Newburgh, we can never be too safe and that’s why we need to pass legislation that sets universal standards and clamps down on dangerous contaminants” said U.S Senator Charles Schumer. “With the recent incidents of contaminated drinking water in New York, it’s crystal clear that we need a maximum contaminant level set by the EPA for perfluorinated compounds like PFOA/PFOS, 1,4 dioxane and perchlorate. I will use every ounce of my clout to work with my colleagues in the Senate and make sure this common-sense public health bill to ensure safe drinking water is passed.”
“If President Trump is serious about providing ‘crystal clear, clean drinking water’ to all Americans, he should leap at the chance to sign this legislation. All Americans deserve drinking water free from chemicals that may cause cancer, hormone disruption and other serious health problems, and this proposal will go a long way in honoring that basic obligation. PFCs, perchlorate and 1,4-dioxane are widespread contaminants in the nation’s drinking water supply and there is robust research showing all three pose a significant threat to human health. Congress can and must take action to reduce the public’s exposure and it can start by passing this legislation. EWG applauds Sens. Gillibrand and Schumer for their continued commitment to improve public health protections, and we will do whatever we can to ensure this important piece of legislation gets the President’s desk,” said Scott Faber, Senior Vice President of the Environmental Working Group.
The EPA evaluates substances that may be in drinking water by developing a Contaminant Candidate List (CCL), which lists potentially harmful contaminants that are not subject to any national primary drinking water regulations. When making the determination to regulate a contaminant in drinking water, the law requires that the EPA determine whether that contaminant meets the following three criteria:
- The contaminant may have an adverse effect on the health of persons;
- The contaminant is known to occur or there is substantial likelihood the contaminant will occur in public water systems with a frequency and at levels of public health concern;
- In the sole judgment of the Administrator, regulation of the contaminant presents a meaningful opportunity for health risk reductions for persons served by public water systems.
While perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), 1,4 dioxane, and perchlorate are on the CCL, they have remained unregulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, with no monitoring or enforcement mechanism for the EPA to keep these chemicals out of drinking water sources. This bill would move this process forward by requiring the EPA to issue a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for each of the chemicals. This would establish a legally enforceable standard that applies to public water systems. The NPDWR would also identify a threshold of expected risk to health for each of these chemicals.
The Senators have been vocal about their concern with the current state of public drinking water systems in New York. For instance, last month Senator Gillibrand urged Hoosick Falls Mayor David Borge and the Village Board of Trustees to table the proposed PFOA settlement, and abstain from agreeing to the proposed legal agreement, with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International because “the village should not be precluded from taking legal action on behalf of the residents in the event that future circumstances warrant such action.” In January, Schumer and Gillibrand called on the EPA to prioritize and accelerate the risk evaluation for 1,4-dioxane. Schumer also urged Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics to work proactively with federal and state environmental officials to define and clean up the PFOA contamination in Hoosick Falls. Last July, Gillibrand held a roundtable discussion at Hoosick Falls Central School District High School to hear from residents on how PFOA contamination has affected their lives. Gillibrand and Schumer had previously called on the EPA to use its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act to determine if PFOA should be restricted or banned at the federal level.
Also, last July, Schumer and Gillibrand called on the Air National Guard to provide necessary resources to residents near Gabreski airport base including access to clean drinking water after the presence of PFOS was found in the water around the airport. After the Senators’ call, the Air National Guard agreed in principle to pay for hooking up residents who rely on private wells to the public water supply system. And in August, Gillibrand called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to partner with the New York State Department of Health to offer blood testing for to residents of Newburgh. In May, Schumer called on the EPA to use its technical expertise to immediately release its updated drinking water health advisory for PFOA and PFOS to help make sure communities like Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh and Newburgh are not comprised.