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Assembly examines water contamination; GOP targets Cuomo

ALBANY -- The Assembly will hold one of two public hearings on Long Island to confront water contamination cases statewide including an ongoing crisis in an upstate community that Republicans claim the Cuomo administration has mishandled.

“Recent reports of water contamination in municipalities across the state have highlighted the need for a thorough review of measures to ensure clean and healthy water in communities,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

“Disturbing discoveries of harmful contaminants highlight the need for preventative measures to be put in place,” said Assembly Environmental Conservative Committee Chairman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket).

The fall hearings in Albany and in Suffolk County could lead to legislation in the 2017 session beginning in January.

“This is a serious public health crisis,” said Assembly Republican leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua), who credited Heastie for calling the hearings. “I don’t know why this hasn’t risen to the level of seriousness it needs.”

Assemb. Steve McLaughlin (R-Castleton-on-Hudson) wants the hearings to focus on a case in Hoosick Falls, north of Albany, which has roiled a community facing the presence of the chemical PFOA in their water supply. He and some residents question how long the Cuomo administration knew about the threat before alerting residents.

“Governor Cuomo better cancel his summer plans,” McLaughin said Thursday. “The Cuomo administration can no longer run from their incredibly poor and inept judgment. It’s time for the facts to come out.”

U.S. Rep Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook) has joined the effort. Congressional Republicans are now asking the federal Environmental Protection Agency to produce documents related to the Hoosick Falls case.

Cuomo has said the state couldn’t have been more aggressive in dealing with the crisis that had forced residents to use other sources of water as they fear their taps could be carrying a carcinogen.

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said the administration will cooperate and that the federal government must act more decisively on cases around the country where PFOA has been found in drinking water.

“States across the country have struggled to confront evolving information about PFOA and other emerging contaminants, particularly in the face of shifting guidelines and the absence of regulation from the federal government,” Azzopardi said Thursday. “We will gladly share our experience in New York to clarify the facts and the steps we have taken to address these challenges. We hope the end result is that Congress and the federal government act swiftly to prioritize and to implement uniform, nationwide regulations of PFOA and similar, currently unregulated contaminants. ”

Dates and times of the hearings haven’t yet been announced.

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