Press Release

In Menands, Gillibrand Calls For $20 Million In Federal Funding To Regulate Industrial PFAS Pollution

Jun 7, 2024

Water Sources Around The Country – Including Drinking Water at the Watervliet Arsenal – Are Contaminated With Dangerous And Carcinogenic PFAS

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a press conference at Menands Village Hall to call for $20 million in federal funding to regulate industrial discharges of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS chemicals are widespread contaminants found in a variety of consumer products, various industrial applications, and firefighting foam. They cause an array of health problems, including developmental effects, changes in liver, immune system, and thyroid function and increased risk of some cancers. Although tap water in Menands is safe and free of contaminants, almost half the tap water in the United States contains PFAS, including about 50% of New York’s public water systems. 

The wastewater discharges of certain industries, particularly those who make or use PFAS, have been and continue to be significant sources of PFAS pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is able to address these discharges using its Clean Water Act authorities, and the agency is currently in the process of establishing the first regulations to finally address industrial discharges and stem the flow of PFAS into our waters and communities. The $20 million Gillibrand is requesting be included in the FY2025 appropriations bill would allow the EPA to accelerate and complete its work to establish these regulations, stopping PFAS before they are released into our environment.

While the Village of Menands has done commendable work keeping its water supply free of PFAS, communities across New York continue to deal with these toxic chemicals their water supplies,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It’s unacceptable, and polluters must be held accountable. The EPA agrees with me and has been working over the last few years to develop the first national regulations to address industrial PFAS discharges. However, the agency’s progress has been slowed down by a continual lack of resources, which is why I’m calling for $20 million in dedicated funding to be included in next year’s budget to help the EPA finally address PFAS at its source and get these dangerous chemicals out of our waterways for good.” 

“Governments, industries, and individuals need to collaborate to reduce PFAS production, enhance regulations, and clean up contaminated sites. By raising awareness and pushing for stringent controls, we can protect our health and ensure a safer environment for future generations. We here in Menands support and applaud Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to increase federal funding to ensure we are addressing this growing hazard NOW. Later is simply too late,” said Brian A. Marsh, Mayor Village of Menands.

“A commitment to protecting our environment and water sources is an investment in protecting our public health, and as such, the importance of reducing and preventing the further contamination of our water from PFAs cannot be understated. I am in full support of this request to include $20 million in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill in order to significantly reduce the discharge of harmful PFAs through the proper implementation of effluent limitation guidelines (ELGs) under the Clean Water Act. Albany County is ready to act on a local level when this is passed to demonstrate the serious advancements we can make in our communities,” said Albany County Legislature Chairwoman Joanne Cunningham.

Colonie Town Supervisor Peter G. Crummey said, “Our Town is keenly aware of the significance of providing potable water to our citizens and visitors.  In fact, we provide an average of 10 million gallons of potable water to our citizens every day of the year. We thank Senator Gillibrand for her efforts in ensuring high water quality throughout our Region and State.”

“Lakes, rivers, and streams across New York State have been impacted by PFAS contamination, and some industries continue to release these chemicals into waterways without any limitations. The Clean Water Act provides a pathway to limit the amount of PFAS in the effluent released from polluting industries, but funding is necessary to enact these protections,” said Kate Donovan, Northeast Regional Director of Environmental Health at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “National effluent limitation guidelines for PFAS would help ensure that surface waters are safeguarded from these dangerous, long-lasting chemicals.”

“We have to turn off the tap on toxic PFAS chemicals. Stopping drinking water contamination from occurring in the first place will save taxpayers billions of dollars in cleanup costs. We thank Sen. Gillibrand for advocating to provide EPA the resources they need to protect public health and stop polluters from dumping these forever chemicals into our streams, lakes, and drinking water sources,” said Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water with Environmental Advocates NY.

A leader in the fight against PFAS chemicals, Senator Gillibrand has long advocated for and championed legislation to protect the public from dangerous PFAS chemicals. Gillibrand’s Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act would require the EPA to establish regulations to address PFAS for eight industry categories and provide dedicated funding to the EPA to complete those rulemakings. Just this year, the EPA finalized the first-ever national drinking water standard for PFAS, which mirrors the standard called for by Gillibrand’s Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act.

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to Senate appropriators is available here or below: 

Dear Chair Merkley and Ranking Member Murkowski, 

As you develop the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we urge you to include $20 million in additional dedicated funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water to complete and accelerate the implementation of effluent limitation guidelines (ELGs) for PFAS discharges under the Clean Water Act. 

PFAS are a class of synthetic chemical substances that have been manufactured for decades despite evidence of their health risks and extraordinary persistence in our bodies and the environment. The strength of the carbon-fluorine bond found in PFAS chemicals, which is what makes them useful in a variety of consumer products and industrial processes, is also the reason the chemicals take so long to break down and thus accumulate over time. When polluters release PFAS into the environment, it is difficult and expensive to contain and remediate. For example, PFAS in waste sent to sewage treatment works will often pass through the treatment process, remaining in treated water and biosolids. From there, they can contaminate additional ecosystems, drinking water sources, and the food chain. This is already happening in thousands of communities across the country, causing a nationwide PFAS contamination crisis. 

Thankfully, the Clean Water Act includes a powerful mechanism that EPA can use to stop the flow of PFAS into our nation’s waters and ensure that manufacturers bear the costs of preventing and controlling PFAS contamination. Specifically, the Clean Water Act directs EPA to establish ELGs for industrial categories that discharge pollutants like PFAS. ELGs are developed on an industry-by-industry basis and are responsible for preventing billions of pounds of pollutants from being discharged into our waters annually. 

Unfortunately, EPA has failed for decades to establish any ELGs to address PFAS. That said, EPA is finally taking steps to do so. EPA’s 2021 PFAS Strategic Roadmap (Roadmap)acknowledged the importance of addressing PFAS pollution at the source and set timelines by which the agency plans to restrict PFAS discharges from multiple industrial categories. In January 2023, EPA issued its Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 (Plan 15), which further detailed the agency’s focus on addressing certain industrial PFAS discharges through ELGs. 

We applaud EPA for its ongoing commitment to reducing discharges of PFAS through the promulgation of ELGs. However, we are concerned that EPA lacks the resources it needs to complete this critical work. EPA has already experienced delays in meeting the timelines established in the Roadmap for establishing ELGs for certain industrial categories that discharge PFAS, and it is likely that the agency will continue to miss its deadlines unless the necessary levels of funding are provided. Thus, to prevent any further delays, we ask that your budget request for FY 2025 include sufficient funding for EPA to meet the deadlines set in the Roadmap and Plan 15. 

We also believe that the scale and severity of the PFAS contamination crisis warrants a more urgent approach than EPA is currently taking. Even if EPA is given all the resources it needs to take the actions outlined in the Roadmap and Plan 15, actually completing them will take years. The U.S. House of Representatives has twice passed the bipartisan Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act, which would require EPA to set limits on PFAS discharges for nine industry categories within four years. Similar legislation has also been introduced in the Senate. We believe that anything less ambitious than the schedule endorsed by the House would fall short of what communities struggling with PFAS pollution expect and need from the EPA. 

We urge you to include $20 million in the FY 2025 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for the EPA’s Office of Water to accelerate the development of ELGs to help stop PFAS pollution at the source. We thank you for taking PFAS pollution seriously and look forward to working with you on addressing this urgent crisis.