Rockland families flooded with concern over levels of chemicals in their drinking water
Rockland families are flooded with concern over unsafe levels of chemicals known as PFAS in their drinking water.
It comes as legal notices were sent to families from Suez and Nyack Water utilities, informing them that toxic PFAS chemicals in their drinking water exceed state standards.
"We're really horrified and terrified to learn recently there are toxic chemicals in our water," says Rockland resident Molly Findlay.
The Rockland Water Coalition Monday announced a petition with over 1,000 signatures that is pushing the state to take action against chemicals in the drinking water.
"We are calling on Gov. Cuomo to ensure safe clean drinking water for all, calling for quick and thorough cleanup of PFAS to non-detectable levels," says Sr. Dorothy Maxwell, of the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt.
PFAS are chemicals used in everything from plastics to firefighting foam and linked to health issues like high blood pressure and cancer.
While the federal limit for these chemicals is 70 parts per trillion, last summer the state tightened the limit to 10 parts per trillion.
A total of 16 wells in Rockland now exceed that state standard, with nearly every well in the county showing some contamination.
"The water hasn't changed, the standard did and even before New York state lowered the standard from 70 ppt to 10 ppt last August, we began sampling and designing treatment which we will now invest technology and upgrades to remediate the substances from our water," says Bill Madden, of Suez Water.
In March, federal lawmakers called on the EPA to step in.
"Unfortunately, my office has still not heard back from the EPA so we will be following up in short order on that subject," said Rep. Mondaire Jones.
But on Monday, the EPA told News 12 that the drinking water is regulated by state and at this time "it does not appear that EPA's direct assistance is needed."
The CDC says the health effects from low-level exposures are unknown, while the EPA explains that "PFAS are absorbed, and can accumulate in the body... to the point where" they can lead to health effects.
Suez Water says the issue will likely take two to three years to remediate.
In a statement, an EPA spokesperson said: "We are well aware of the concerns and EPA has already conferred with both relevant New York State agencies (DEC and DOH) to determine if and how EPA can be of assistance. Drinking water in New York State is regulated by NYSDOH and New York has its own drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS. There are currently no federal drinking water standards for these contaminants. At this time, it does not appear that EPA’s direct assistance is needed, but we continue to stand ready to assist if needed and have agreed to keep in close touch with DOH and DEC as they address the issues. In the meantime, EPA is moving forward with the process of regulating certain PFAS compounds in drinking water." https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-takes-action-address-pfas-drinking-water.
A spokesperson with the NYSDOH said, "Suez Water NY was required under recently adopted (August 26, 2020) Department of Health regulations to begin testing for PFOA and PFOS and to notify customers if the results exceeded 10 parts per trillion (ppt). The company’s testing – overseen by Rockland County HD and DOH – found an MCL exceedance in certain wells of 11-19 ppt for PFOA, which requires the company to immediately take remedial actions in coordination with the Department of Health. Suez Water NY has developed an approved a compliance schedule that includes steps to reduce levels of PFOA to ensure that drinking water will meet the 10 ppt MCL standard as rapidly as possible.The NYS MCL for PFOA is highly precautious and set at a level well below any known health effect levels. Water being provided to customers is at acceptable levels for all uses as water systems take actions to reduce levels below MCL levels."