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NYS Tackles Emerging Contaminants

NY Sets Toughest Standards in Nation for 1,4-Dioxane, PFOS, PFOA

Great news! The New York State Drinking Water Council has voted to recommend the toughest drinking water standards in the nation for emerging contaminants. The Council voted this week to set a standard of 1 ppb for 1,4-dioxane and 10 ppt for PFOS and PFOA. These three contaminants have been found in high levels in Long Island’s drinking water, but unfortunately there was no state or federal enforceable safe drinking water standard. Once NYS adopts these drinking water standards, we can better protect Long Islanders from these toxins.

1,4-Dioxane

1,4-Dioxane is a likely carcinogen found in 46% of all personal care products, including shampoos, soaps, laundry detergents, and baby products.  Unfortunately, Long Island is home to the highest levels of 1,4 dioxane in drinking water in the nation. Many wells contained levels over 10 times the EPA’s cancer risk guideline of .35 ppb. Suffolk County Water Authority has been piloting an effective treatment technology to remove 1,4-dioxane. An enforceable standard will provide a clear directive to water companies on how to effectively treat for this chemical. New York’s recommendation of 1 ppb will be the most stringent, enforceable drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane in the nation.

PFOA and PFOS

PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctane Sulfonate) are emerging contaminants with links to serious health impacts, including reproductive and immunological effects as well as cancers. These contaminants are persistent in the environment and were found in nonstick cookware, waterproofing treatments, and firefighting foams. The problems with PFOA and PFOS contamination became a national news story when high levels of the chemicals caused a public health crisis in Hoosick Falls, NY. PFOS was also found at high levels in Westhampton, Hampton Bays, East Hampton, and Yaphank. Unlike 1,4-dioxane, PFOS and PFOA can be treated relatively inexpensively with carbon filtration systems, but we still need a standard to ensure that water companies are removing these chemicals from drinking water.

Next Steps

We applaud the great work of NYS and the Drinking Water Quality Council for recommending effective standards to reduce these harmful chemicals, but there is more work to do. The next step is for the NYS Department of Health to begin a regulatory process that formally adopts the standards. Grant funding will be needed to be available for water suppliers to remove these chemicals from drinking water. It is a great step in beginning to remove these contaminants from drinking water, but we also must ensure that we stop the contamination at the source. 1,4-dioxane is still prevalent in everyday personal care products. New York State needs to ban 1,4-dioxane in products to prevent further contamination of our water resources.

These rigorous drinking water standard recommendations for 1,4-dioxane, PFOS, and PFOA is a significant step towards protecting Long Islanders from these harmful toxins. We look forward to these standards being expeditiously adopted by NYS and hope these standards can serve as models for other states. As the LICWP continues our work to protect our water and health from emerging contaminants, make sure you are registered to receive our updates and learn how you can help with these campaigns.