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NY senators to EPA: Release study on risks of PFAS chemicals

Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Credit: AP / Jeff Bachner

New York’s two members of the U.S. Senate have called on federal environmental regulators to release a study said to find that man-made chemicals found in some drinking water on Long Island are dangerous at concentrations far lower than where federal authorities now advise remedial action.

The study involves perfluoroakyl substances (PFAS) — which includes chemicals known as PFOA and PFOS. The chemicals have been found in water systems around the country, and also been used in products like Teflon and firefighting foam.

“I am deeply disturbed by reports that the Trump administration and top EPA officials are blocking a report vital to protect public health,” Senator Charles Schumer said in a statement. “The people of Long Island and beyond need and deserve to know just how harmful PFAS and PFOA, like those on the East End and around Gabreski (Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach), are to the body.”

“I’m extremely disturbed by the report that the Trump administration is hiding information from the public about the dangers of PFAS because they are scared that Americans will be angry,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Numerous communities in New York have already had their water supplies poisoned by this very chemical, and if the Trump Administration has more evidence that PFAS are harmful to people’s health, then they need to come clean and tell the public.”

Schumer and Gillibrand co-wrote a letter to Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, calling for the study to be released.

POLITICO reported this week that the EPA sought to block publication of the federal study, with one Trump administration aide warning the report would cause a “public relations nightmare,” according to emails cited by POLITICO.

The study is said to show that the chemicals “endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe,” POLITICO said.

The White House referred questions about the report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “which confirmed that the study has no scheduled release date,” POLITICO said.

Ryan Jackson, chief of staff for Pruitt, defended the EPA’s actions, telling POLITICO the agency was helping “ensure that the federal government is responding in a uniform way to our local, state and congressional constituents and partners.”

PFOS and PFOA have been detected on Long Island and prompted the state to name Gabreski Air National Guard Base and a Suffolk County fire-training center in Yaphank to the state Superfund list.

Last month, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials said a monitoring well drilled near a former landfill in East Quogue detected a perfluorinated compound in a concentration more than 150 times the level at which federal officials say exposure in drinking water can cause health problems, including impaired fetal growth, certain cancers and immune system conditions.

The officials said the result — the highest concentration detected on Long Island of the compound — came from groundwater samples, not a drinking-water well.

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