New York State Curbs Emerging Pollutants to Protect Water Quality

New York has adopted historic and protective measures to ensure clean water quality for drinking supplies and public health. Governor Cuomo has announced that New York State will use a first-in-the-nation drinking water standard for the contaminant 1,4-Dioxane, setting the maximum contaminant level at 1 part per billion. The emerging industrial chemical is classified by the EPA as a likely human carcinogen and is a by-product present in paint strippers, dyes, greases, antifreeze and aircraft deicing fluids, and consumer products such as deodorants, shampoos, and cosmetics. Risks to humans in the short-term include nausea, drowsiness, headache, and ENT irritation. Long-term health impacts have been documented infrequently in humans but animal studies suggest increased incidences in naval cavities, as well as liver and gallbladder tumors.

The Governor also announced maximum contaminant levels for emerging pollutants PFOA and PFOS in New York’s drinking water at 10 parts per trillion. The EPA has issued health advisories for both PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, based on scientific evidence that indicates long-term exposure to these chemicals can result in adverse health effects such as developmental effects, liver damage, immunocompromisation, thyroid effects, and cholesterol changes. The health impacts on humans of these three chemicals are adequately documented, yet remain unregulated by the EPA, which is the agency responsible for setting regulatory limits under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. New York’s regulations will be stricter than the EPA’s current guidance levels for PFOA and PFOS, which are at 70 parts per trillion. New York will soon require public water systems serving 10,000 people or more to begin testing within 60 days, within 90 days for systems serving between 3,300 to 9,999 people, and within six months for systems serving less than 3,300 people.

New York established the Drinking Water Quality Council in the 2018 Budget to assist the New York State Department of Health in addressing emerging drinking water contaminants resulting from decades-old pollution. The Council, composed of academic scientists, engineers, public water system professionals, and experts from the New York State Department of Health and Environmental Conservation, made recommendations that were published in the New York State Register for a public comment period. The DOH modified the drafted proposal based on public feedback to establish a deferral process for public water systems that proactively tested to come into compliance with the new regulatory standards without being issued a violation notice. The state plans to provide grants to cover 60% of the total costs of clean-up and testing projects as well as low-interest financing for the remaining project costs to ensure that clean drinking water is affordable for all communities.