Amid Drinking Water Crisis, New York Panel Calls for Stricter Limits on Pollutants

by | December 20, 2018 AT 7:20 AM

By Chris McKenna

A state panel created in response to drinking-water crises in the City of Newburgh and other places in New York has recommended the state set strict contamination limits for three chemicals that include the type that polluted Newburgh's primary water source.

The New York State Drinking Water Quality Council declared on Tuesday that the Department of Health should allow public water supplies to contain no more than 10 parts per trillion of PFOA or PFOS and no more than 1 part per billion of 1.4-dioxane. PFOS is the chemical that was found in Newburgh's water and is believed to come from firefighting foam that washed into the city's Washington Lake from Stewart Air National Guard base.

In 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency set advisory levels of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA.

Newburgh has not used water from Washington Lake, whose PFOS levels ranged from 140 to 170 parts per trillion, since May 2016.

The maximum contamination levels suggested by the Water Quality Council are subject to approval with possible modifications by state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker -- who served on the council -- and the Public Health and Health Planning Council. Once the state has imposed the rules, operators of public water systems will have to test regularly for the three chemicals and comply with the limits.

Assemblyman and senator-elect James Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat who will soon represent the City of Newburgh, cheered the recommendations on Wednesday, saying it was "far past time for every public water system in New York State to be properly tested for these hazardous contaminants."

Colin Schmitt, the New Windsor Republican elected in November to the Assembly seat Skoufis is vacating, also applauded the proposed contamination limits. He said he helped obtain clean water for New Windsor residents with contaminated water in his recent job as a New Windsor town employee, and also worked on remediating water supplies contaminated with PFOA and PFOS.

"Many in our community have anxiously been awaiting the council's report, and I'm pleased to see these new recommendations have now been handed down," Schmitt said.

(c)2018 The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.