New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli recently released a report urging the State and Federal government to take action to protect drinking water sources in New York. The report comes as a response to the Trump administration’s proposed EPA budget cuts to slash funding by up to one third. These cuts would hinder the EPA’s ability to properly monitor and enforce drinking water standards in public water supplies. DiNapoli outlined specific areas for improvement to ensure New Yorkers have access to clean, safe water and ultimately prevent water contamination incidences like those in Hoosick Falls and Newburgh.
The EPA requires that states adopt drinking water standards at least as stringent as the federal standards, however, the federal standards do not cover all contaminants. DiNapoli argues that New York increase our standards to be at least on-par with federal standards, especially for PFOA, which was found at Hoosick Falls and other sites, and 1,4-dioxine which has been found in some Long Island wells. The report pushes for an increase in the number of contaminants monitored by the Department of Health, especially for contaminants that may be more specific to New York and are not covered in federal standards. The EPA too, can move quickly on regulating perfluorinated compounds, like PFOA, before their budget is axed.
The report also called for more effective coordination between the Federal and State government, which would ensure that information is as up-to-date as possible, and maintain transparency with the public about risks to their drinking water and the potential health consequences of the contaminants. Ultimately, the goal should be to prevent contamination before it even occurs. This means that surface and groundwater must be remediated before it enters public water systems and common chemicals that have the potential to create public health problems must be identified and replaced, to avoid future water contamination.
Overall, the report released by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli highlights the numerous improvements necessary for protecting drinking water sources across New York. The events at Hoosick Falls and Newburgh are evidence that more needs to be done to ensure clean water for all New Yorkers, and action needs to be taken at both the State and Federal level to protect our valuable water supplies.