Dec 19, 2018

New York Panel Recommends Tougher Emerging Contaminant Standards

The proposed standards on emerging contaminants in drinking water would be among the strictest in the nation

New York proposes strict standards for emerging contaminants in drinking water
New York proposes strict standards for emerging contaminants in drinking water

The New York state Drinking Water Quality Council has recommended new drinking water standards for emerging contaminants perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and 1,4 dioxane that, if enacted, would be among the toughest in the nation. The 12-member council, formed in September 2017 to create recommendations for maximum contaminant levels (MCLs), recommended new MCLs of 1 ppb for 1,4 dioxane, 10 ppt for PFOA and PFOS, and 20 ppt for combined of the latter, as reported by the Times Union.  

If enacted, these standards would be some of the toughest in the nation, far exceeding the U.S. EPA’s federal advisory level of 70 ppt for combined PFOA and PFOS. However, the stringent standards would likely come with a hefty price tag. The state estimates the new rules would cost upward of $1 billion to treat the emerging contaminants in drinking water statewide, in addition to maintenance costs. The state estimates that 23% of public water wells in New York would need treatment for PFOA and PFOS at a cost of $855 million in capital costs and $45 million a year in annual costs, as reported by Newsday. For 1,4 dioxane, the state estimates $318 million in capital costs to treat 89 wells, most of which are on Long Island, and $13 million in annual costs.

“It’s about the feasibility. Of course we want things to be the most protective, but there are only a certain amount of resources available,” said Paul Granger, a council member who is head of the Port Washington Water District. Granger voted for the PFOS and PFOA recommendations, but not the 1,4 dioxane standard.

Emerging contaminants have been discovered in drinking water supplies across the state in recent years. 1,4 dioxane has been found in trace amounts in Long Island’s drinking water, with the highest detection in the county found at a well in Hicksville. Another contaminant, PFOS, has been discovered at Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach and near East Hampton airport.

“I have to encourage that we move quickly to adopt these recommendations into regulations,” said NYPIRG Environmental Policy Director Liz Moran. “There are over 4 million New Yorkers who have been exposed to unhealthy levels of PFOA, PFOS and 1,4 dioxane.”

After a public comment period, the recommendations will be considered by state Health Commissioner Howard A. Zucker, with final implementation expected next spring or summer.