The state proposed regulating 23 new contaminants in drinking water...

The state proposed regulating 23 new contaminants in drinking water on Wednesday. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The State Health Department on Wednesday proposed drinking water regulations for 23 new contaminants, including toxic chemicals often found in common items such as cookware, cosmetics and carpets.

The proposed rule addresses chemicals that have been detected in Long Island's water, though state health officials said they're still compiling data that would show how widespread they are.

The regulation kicks off a 60-day public review and comment process and is the department's latest effort to address emerging contaminants in drinking water.

“New Yorkers should know that their drinking water is among the most protected in the country," Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement.

The chemicals are in the PFAS family of compounds that have been widely used for decades in fabric waterproofing, some fire suppression foam used by professional firefighters and nonstick cookware. PFAS breaks down slowly in the environment and in certain cases have contaminated drinking water supplies, leading to concerns about public health.

New York already has a 10-parts-per-trillion drinking water maximum contaminant level for the two most common PFAS compounds, known as PFOS and PFOA.

The proposed regulations would set the same standards for four additional compounds, known as PFHxS, PFNA, PFDA and PFHpA.

The law would set a combined maximum contaminant level for any combination of those six PFAS compounds at 30 parts per trillion. It would also require testing, reporting and public notification — a less stringent requirement than for the other compounds — for 19 additional PFAS compounds.

A state health department spokesman wrote in an email: "The purpose of the proposed regulation is to enable the collection of comprehensive and comparable data from all community water suppliers."

The proposed regulations come several weeks after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to designate PFOS and PFOA as hazardous. The EPA has reduced its guidelines for those chemicals — which have been voluntarily phased out by U.S. manufacturers but still remain in the environment because they do not degrade over time — to levels so low that they cannot be detected by current methods.

Environmentalists lauded the state for widening the list of regulated PFAS chemicals, but criticized the proposal for not lowering existing limits on PFOA or PFOS.

“New York’s proposed drinking water standards are a small step forward but we need a giant leap,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director for the Farmingdale-based nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “It is critical that New York incorporate EPA’s warning that there is no safe level of exposure to these toxic PFAS chemicals.”

Last month, a coalition of 40 environmental groups, including three from Long Island, urged New York to align state drinking water standards with EPA recommendations on PFOA and PFOS.

Long Island water providers have reported recent detections of the additional chemicals above the proposed levels, though it is not clear how widespread they are. The Suffolk County Water Authority had detections of PFHxS above the new levels in two of its 15 well districts, according to its April-June quarterly report. One area stretches between Manorville and Dix Hills, and another runs from the Rocky Point area to Stony Brook.

The water authority could not immediately provide additional information on detections.

The proposed regulations note it will cost water providers more for additional testing and treatment, potentially increasing their annual spending by an average $8.9 million for a provider serving between 100,000 and 500,000 residents.

“Additional GAC systems may need to be installed if the proposed regulations go into effect, and some of these chemicals may require a more frequent changeout of carbon than other contaminants,” Patrick Halpin, chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, which serves about 1.2 million people, said in a statement. “As such, we would anticipate that new regulations would come with additional expenses.”

Still, water providers say it appears the additional contaminants can be removed from the water supply using granular activated carbon — already being widely used to remove PFOA and PFOS — mitigating new treatment costs.

Water providers have already begun passing on the costs of treating new contaminants to consumers through increased rates and surcharges. The state has also granted hundreds of millions of dollars to Long Island water providers for the work.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday signed a bill into law that lifts the statute of limitations for water providers to retroactively seek damages from polluters. Several Long Island water providers have lawsuits pending with chemical manufacturers like 3M and DuPont to recoup remediation costs.

On Long Island, PFOA and PFOS have been found in hundreds of public and private wells since around 2016. Water providers bring contaminants down to nondetectable levels in the water supply using granular activated carbon filters.

Members of the public will have until Dec. 5 to review and comment on the regulations before the department issues a final rule for the Public Health and Health Planning Council to consider for formal adoption.

The State Health Department on Wednesday proposed drinking water regulations for 23 new contaminants, including toxic chemicals often found in common items such as cookware, cosmetics and carpets.

The proposed rule addresses chemicals that have been detected in Long Island's water, though state health officials said they're still compiling data that would show how widespread they are.

The regulation kicks off a 60-day public review and comment process and is the department's latest effort to address emerging contaminants in drinking water.

“New Yorkers should know that their drinking water is among the most protected in the country," Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The State Health Department proposed drinking water regulations for 23 new contaminants.
  • The proposed rule making addresses chemicals that have been detected in Long Island's water.
  • Environmentalists lauded the state for widening the list of regulated PFAS chemicals, but criticized the proposal for not lowering existing limits on PFOA or PFOS.

The chemicals are in the PFAS family of compounds that have been widely used for decades in fabric waterproofing, some fire suppression foam used by professional firefighters and nonstick cookware. PFAS breaks down slowly in the environment and in certain cases have contaminated drinking water supplies, leading to concerns about public health.

New York already has a 10-parts-per-trillion drinking water maximum contaminant level for the two most common PFAS compounds, known as PFOS and PFOA.

The proposed regulations would set the same standards for four additional compounds, known as PFHxS, PFNA, PFDA and PFHpA.

The law would set a combined maximum contaminant level for any combination of those six PFAS compounds at 30 parts per trillion. It would also require testing, reporting and public notification — a less stringent requirement than for the other compounds — for 19 additional PFAS compounds.

A state health department spokesman wrote in an email: "The purpose of the proposed regulation is to enable the collection of comprehensive and comparable data from all community water suppliers."

The proposed regulations come several weeks after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to designate PFOS and PFOA as hazardous. The EPA has reduced its guidelines for those chemicals — which have been voluntarily phased out by U.S. manufacturers but still remain in the environment because they do not degrade over time — to levels so low that they cannot be detected by current methods.

Environmentalists lauded the state for widening the list of regulated PFAS chemicals, but criticized the proposal for not lowering existing limits on PFOA or PFOS.

“New York’s proposed drinking water standards are a small step forward but we need a giant leap,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director for the Farmingdale-based nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “It is critical that New York incorporate EPA’s warning that there is no safe level of exposure to these toxic PFAS chemicals.”

Last month, a coalition of 40 environmental groups, including three from Long Island, urged New York to align state drinking water standards with EPA recommendations on PFOA and PFOS.

Long Island water providers have reported recent detections of the additional chemicals above the proposed levels, though it is not clear how widespread they are. The Suffolk County Water Authority had detections of PFHxS above the new levels in two of its 15 well districts, according to its April-June quarterly report. One area stretches between Manorville and Dix Hills, and another runs from the Rocky Point area to Stony Brook.

The water authority could not immediately provide additional information on detections.

The proposed regulations note it will cost water providers more for additional testing and treatment, potentially increasing their annual spending by an average $8.9 million for a provider serving between 100,000 and 500,000 residents.

“Additional GAC systems may need to be installed if the proposed regulations go into effect, and some of these chemicals may require a more frequent changeout of carbon than other contaminants,” Patrick Halpin, chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, which serves about 1.2 million people, said in a statement. “As such, we would anticipate that new regulations would come with additional expenses.”

Still, water providers say it appears the additional contaminants can be removed from the water supply using granular activated carbon — already being widely used to remove PFOA and PFOS — mitigating new treatment costs.

Water providers have already begun passing on the costs of treating new contaminants to consumers through increased rates and surcharges. The state has also granted hundreds of millions of dollars to Long Island water providers for the work.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday signed a bill into law that lifts the statute of limitations for water providers to retroactively seek damages from polluters. Several Long Island water providers have lawsuits pending with chemical manufacturers like 3M and DuPont to recoup remediation costs.

On Long Island, PFOA and PFOS have been found in hundreds of public and private wells since around 2016. Water providers bring contaminants down to nondetectable levels in the water supply using granular activated carbon filters.

Members of the public will have until Dec. 5 to review and comment on the regulations before the department issues a final rule for the Public Health and Health Planning Council to consider for formal adoption.

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