03.02.21

FOLLOWING DISCOVERY OF TOXIC CHEMICALS IN ROCKLAND COUNTY WELLS IMPACTING 300,000 RESIDENTS, SCHUMER, JONES CALL ON FED EPA TO STEP IN ASAP; REPS CALL ON EPA TO AID IN SWIFT TESTING INVESTIGATION AND REMEDIATION EFFORTS

Toxic PFOA Levels Recently Tested At 19 PPT In Rockland County, Almost DOUBLE State Standard; Yet, Extent & Source Of Contamination Is Currently Unknown

Reps Say PFOA In Rockland Water Supply Potentially Poses Health & Environmental Risks To 300,000+ Rockland Residents And The EPA Must Help Rockland and NY Quickly Address Contamination ASAP

Schumer, Jones To EPA: We Needs All Hands On Deck To Clean Up Rockland Drinking Water

Following a late-2020 notice where more than 300,000 Rockland residents learned that contaminate levels exceeded New York’s maximum level of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) in their drinking water sources, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Representative Mondaire Jones today urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately aid Rockland County and New York in testing and tracking recently discovered PFOA in public drinking water sources in Rockland County, New York. Specifically, the representatives pushed for the EPA to aid local regulators in conducting swift water sampling , the first step to facilitating the PFOA clean-up, followed by determination of the source of contamination and development of a remediation plan.

“Hundreds of thousands of Rockland residents having potentially toxic PFOA in their drinking water demands an all-hands-on-deck approach, including the expertise of the EPA,” said Senator Schumer. “The EPA needs to immediately assist local leaders to identify the source, educate the public, and clean it up ASAP to give Rockland County families and children peace of mind and most importantly, safe drinking water. The fact that the drinking water system exists across state lines means a federal entity like the EPA can be helpful managing cress state issues that arise.”

“Safe, clean drinking water is a basic human right,” said Representative Jones. “The startling revelation that more than 300,000 of my constituents in Rockland County may be denied that right is unacceptable and demands swift action. The EPA must move with urgency to determine the source of the contamination, inform impacted residents, and decontaminate the water source as quickly as possible. I’ll continue working with my colleagues at every level of government to protect the health of our communities and ensure this crisis is fully addressed as efficiently and expeditiously as possible.”

“We thank Senator Schumer and Congressman Jones for asking the EPA to step in and help out our state and local leaders identify and remediate the PFAS contamination in our water," said Peggy Kurtz, one of the leaders of the Rockland Water Coalition.  “Following the notification sent to 300,000 residents late last year, the Rockland Water Coalition held a public meeting, attended by close to 500 people, regarding this PFAS contamination and its potential health, environmental, and economic impacts on residents. The very high attendance at our meeting underscores just how concerned Rockland residents are about the safety of their drinking water. The public wants answers as to the source and extent of this contamination. Ultimately, the Rockland Water Coalition is also calling for much stricter drinking water standards for PFAS chemicals, at the state and federal level.”  

Schumer and Jones explained that the PFOA levels in the Suez public wells tested at levels up to 19 parts-per-trillion (ppt), which is 9 ppt greater than the recently finalized maximum New York state standard of 10 ppt. The representatives said the presence of excessive PFOA levels in public drinking water necessitates urgent action by local, state and federal regulators. The representatives noted the actions of the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation (DEC), New York State Department of Health (DOH), Rockland County Health Department, and other local regulators and stakeholders, and said that the expertise and technical guidance from the federal EPA will help address Rockland’s drinking water contamination.

PFOA is part of a group of manufactured chemicals, known as Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), that are persistent in the environment and resist degradation. These toxic chemicals are often used to manufacture products like fabric protectors, firefighting foam, and stain repellents. Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects. In 2017, Schumer secured the authorization for a CDC-led study on the health effects of PFAS contamination in drinking water, groundwater, and other exposure sites.

Rockland County’s water system includes dozens of wells and multiple reservoirs contributing to the water supply. Suez’s water system for Rockland County serves most Rockland residents with more than 300,000 people served. The Suez system also serves the State of New Jersey, making a federal investigation even more critical due to multiple states and agencies being involved. According to a recent report by Riverkeeper, contamination is widespread in water sources across Rockland County, with multiple PFAS detected.

Senator Schumer and Representative Jones’ letter to EPA Acting Administrator Jane T. Nishida appears below:

Dear Acting Administrator:

Following the recent discovery by the New York State Department of Health of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) contamination in the Suez public wells and other public drinking water sources in Rockland County, New York, we write to urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use its technical expertise to quickly assist the community in testing their water. Additionally, we urge the EPA to assist Rockland County in determining the sources of this contamination, and to help them devise a remediation plan to fully clean up the water supply with all due speed by working in conjunction with the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation (DEC), New York State Department of Health (DOH), Rockland County Health Department, and other local regulators and stakeholders.

As you know, the toxicity and bioaccumulation of PFOA can pose a serious risk to human health, which makes its presence in public wells most concerning. Considering the level of PFOA contamination in the Suez public wells tested at 19 parts-per-trillion (ppt), greater than the recently finalized maximum state standard of 10 ppt, We are requesting that EPA use their experience and resources to expeditiously help the residents, local leaders and regulators test all relevant water within the community and water system to help identify the extent of the contamination and determine its source, as well as test for other PFAS chemicals. This contamination must be remediated as soon as possible in order to ensure the health and safety of the community, and the EPA, as the lead environmental regulatory entity in the nation, is in a position to provide much needed assistance in the form of its technical expertise.

Rockland County’s water system includes dozens of wells and multiple reservoirs contributing to the water supply and the discovery of this contamination has caused considerable concern and uncertainty for its residents. This is because Suez’s water system for Rockland County serves most Rockland residents with more than 300,000 potentially impacted. The Suez system also serves the State of New Jersey, making a federal investigation even more critical due to multiple states and agencies being involved. According to a recent report by Riverkeeper, contamination is widespread in water sources across Rockland County, with multiple PFAS detected. It is imperative that EPA take necessary steps to cast away this uncertainty by providing adequate assistance to quickly identify the scope of the problem and swiftly propose an effective remediation plan.

Thank you for working to protect our nation’s health and the quality of our drinking water. We appreciate your attention to this important issue. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions.

Sincerely,

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