Turning on the water in your house shouldn’t be a leap of faith.
We’ve got too much scientific knowledge and too much technology and too much experience with the health consequences of contamination to allow potentially toxic chemicals to taint our water supply and go undetected.
In a situation where the federal government has lacked the will to protect us, state lawmakers have stepped up, passing legislation earlier this week to expand the number of toxic chemicals that government must test for in New York’s drinking supplies.
The bill (A126A/S1759), which still must be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would require testing of 40 so-called “emerging contaminants” in every municipal water supply in the state.
This would fill the safety gap for more than 2.5 million New Yorkers whose water hasn’t had to be tested for these potentially dangerous chemicals because their water systems were too small.
Under this legislation, 13 chemicals currently monitored in larger systems would have to be tested in all water systems, regardless of their size. Another 27 chemicals would be added to the list of chemicals that utilities would have to monitor.
The list includes most UCMR-3 (Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule) chemicals, which are determined by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
It also covers chemicals known as PFAS, which have been used in nonstick cookware, carpets and firefighting equipment — the same type of chemicals found in Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh, North Bennington and other areas.
Emerging contaminants can come from various sources, including manufacturing, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and leaking landfills, finding their way into streams, rivers, underground water supplies and soil.
Yet because of loopholes in EPA regulations, about 2,000 small water utilities in New York have not tested for toxic metals and chemicals, including many PFAS chemicals.
In addition to compiling a list of chemicals to be tested, the bill requires the state Health Department to draft a set of regulations within 90 days after the bill is enacted, meaning New York could have the tough new testing standards in place by the end of summer if the governor acts quickly.
It also requires the Health Department to update the list every three years.
This legislation is welcome, but long overdue. The Hoosick Falls contamination came to light in 2015.
New Yorkers shouldn’t have to put their health in jeopardy just by drinking the water in their own homes.
This legislation will go a long way to helping make our water safer and our lives better.