State Senate Democrats Thursday presented a seven-point plan to protect drinking water in New York State, including calls to regulate contaminants, test all water supplies for toxic chemicals and provide funding for infrastructure upgrades.
Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), who is leader of the Democratic Conference, said the plan would serve as a strategy to protect water locally in the face of an uncertain federal regulatory landscape in Washington, D.C., where at least one bill has been filed to eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“It’s clear we need to take action now,” Stewart-Cousins said during a news conference at the Long Beach Water Authority in Long Beach. “We need to ensure these water resources are protected.”
Called “Unpoisoning the Well: 7 ways New York can better protect your drinking water,” the plan from the Democratic policy group calls on the state to regulate the chemicals 1,4-dioxane and Chromium 6.
EPA has labeled 1,4-dioxane a probable carcinogen, and during a national survey, the man-made chemical showed up in 71 percent of Long Island water supplies at a 1-in-a-millioncancer risk after prolonged exposure. The state has a blanket limit for all unspecified organic contaminants, including 1,4-dioxane, at 50 parts per billion.
On Saturday, state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said on Long Island that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other officials urged the EPA to regulate 1,4-dioxane and if no action was taken within three months, New York would start to set a specific limit.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) has filed legislation directing the state health commissioner to set a drinking water standard.
State Sen. John E. Brooks has filed similar legislation for hexavalent chromium, the chemical made famous by Erin Brockovich, whose efforts led to a $333 million settlement against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. of California for allowing the chemical to get into a town’s water supply.
The EPA has set a limit of 100 parts per billion for all forms of chromium combined, which includes hexavalent. During the EPA survey, hexavalent chromium was found in samples taken from 36 of 38 public water supplies on Long Island, and the highest concentration was 7.3 parts per billion.
The Democrats’ policy plan also includes a provision for the state to set a standard to limit exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, in drinking water.
The compounds — which the EPA said can cause cancer, damage the liver, affect the thyroid and cause developmental issues in fetuses — have been detected in Westhampton, Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and elsewhere in the state.
Scott Reif, spokesman for the state Senate Republican majority, said in an emailed statement the Senate Democrats’ report was “short on details.”
The Democrats’ plan also calls on the state to look at contaminants under review or with health advisories from the EPA or other states to see if the state should take action. Expanding drinking water tests to all suppliers statewide is also mentioned.
“When it comes to safe drinking water these are broad concerns and real risks and the state must address them,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn), chair of the policy group.
Expanding testing for lead in schools and daycares is also included, as is spending for local water infrastructure upgrades.
“We must ensure that our drinking water is safe and pristine, that our water infrastructure is upgraded, and that our aquifers are preserved,” Kaminsky said in a news release. “This is no time for passivity.”