Drinking water standards proposed Monday by state officials for three chemicals found in dozens of Long Island wells and in upstate communities were overdue. But the standards, which would be the most stringent in the nation, are most welcome, especially given the inaction of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The state Department of Health will evaluate comments collected over the next two months and then finalize limits for 1,4-dioxane, an industrial solvent and likely carcinogen, and substances known as PFOS, found in firefighting foam, and PFOA, used in making stain- and water-resistant material. The department must work closely with water suppliers to ensure they have enough time and resources to meet the standards, especially for 1,4-dioxane. Treatment is expensive, estimated at $1 million to $4 million per well. The process is largely in the pilot stage, and it takes at least 18 months to get it in place on a well.
The next step is for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to sign complementary legislation to help keep 1,4-dioxane out of the water in the first place. The State Legislature passed a bill in June that would ban the chemical from household products like shampoo, soap, laundry detergent and baby products. Industry trade groups are lobbying Cuomo to veto the legislation. He should focus instead on the tens of thousands of petition signatures and handwritten letters from New Yorkers asking him to approve the ban. It’s not an impossible task. Some well-known brands already are free of 1,4-dioxane.
Cuomo has been a clean-water champion. Setting new standards and signing the legislation would cement his legacy. — The editorial board