FOLLOWING LAST MONTH’S EVENT IN ROCKLAND COUNTY, SEN. SCHUMER & REP. JONES ANNOUNCE FEDS HEED THEIR CALL – SENDING SENIOR EPA OFFICIAL TO ROCKLAND COUNTY THIS WEDNESDAY FOR PUBLIC MEETING; JUST WEEKS AFTER THEIR PUSH, EPA WILL HEAR DIRECTLY FROM ROCKLAND RESIDENTS & COMMUNITY LEADERS ABOUT THE POTENTIAL EXPOSURE TO TOXIC CHEMICALS IN THEIR DRINKING WATER
With Over 300,000 Rockland Residents Potentially Exposed To Elevated PFAS Levels In Their Drinking Water, Schumer & Jones Called For Feds To Step In And Assist State And Local Agencies – And Hear Directly From Impacted Communities
EPA Heeds Schumer-Jones Call & Send Senior Official To Rockland For A Public Meeting At 7PM on Wednesday
Following their in-person calls in Rockland County last month, and focused advocacy for over 300,000 Rockland residents, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Mondaire Jones today announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has heeded their calls to assist Rockland County residents in better understanding and overcoming the health and environmental risks of PFAS contamination in drinking water. Rockland residents learned in late-2020 that elevated per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) above the New York State Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) were in their drinking water sources. In response, Schumer and Jones launched a three-prong plan to combat these toxic chemicals nationwide, including in Rockland and elsewhere in the Hudson Valley.
Specifically, Schumer and Jones announced that Alyssa Arcaya, Acting Chief of the Drinking Water and Municipal Infrastructure Branch of EPA Region 2, will join the Rockland County Legislature's Water Resources Task Force meeting this coming Wednesday, May 5, 2021, at 7:00 PM. Schumer and Jones further explained that EPA will hear directly from the community by answering questions to better inform Rockland residents about their plans to address PFAS contamination in Lower Hudson Valley drinking water. The virtual public forum will be live-streamed here.
“The hundreds of thousands of Rockland residents who were notified that toxic PFAS could be in their drinking water source deserve answers, and early on I promised to fight to make sure they got them from EPA,” said Senator Schumer. “I am pleased that EPA has answered our calls to work with this community and will send a senior official to attend the public forum this Wednesday hosted by the Rockland County Water Task Force. Although much work remains to be done, EPA working with local stakeholders to educate the public and plan next steps is an important first action in making sure that all Rockland residents have safe, clean drinking water.”
"For months, Senator Schumer and I have been calling for action from the EPA to address the unsafe levels of PFAS contaminants in Rockland County’s water supply. I’m thrilled that thanks to our advocacy and the work of so many Rocklanders, the EPA is finally signaling its willingness to ensure the safety of Rockland’s water. This listening session is an important step toward ending this crisis, but it is just the beginning. Our work won’t be over until every person in Rockland and around the country has safe, clean drinking water," said Congressman Mondaire Jones.
Schumer and Jones further explained that, in January of 2021, following the discovery of PFAS contamination in Rockland County, the Rockland Water Coalition hosted a virtual public meeting that was attended by over 500 people. Many residents expressed concerns about elevated PFAS levels discovered in their drinking water sources. Following these concerns, Schumer and Jones reached out to the Rockland Water Coalition, Riverkeeper, and other community stakeholders. In March of 2021, Schumer and Jones pushed EPA to assist local regulators in public education efforts and swift water sampling to determine the source and full extent of the contamination. Thanking Schumer and Jones, the Rockland Water Coalition said that this public meeting with EPA is a critical first step in assisting Rockland County and its residents.
“We thank Senator Schumer and Congressman Jones for helping us bring the EPA to the table to answer questions and concerns about the PFAS contamination from Rockland County residents," said Peggy Kurtz, one of the leaders of the Rockland Water Coalition. “Since PFAS was discovered in our drinking water late last year, the Rockland Water Coalition has tried to educate community members through public meetings regarding this PFAS contamination and its potential health and environmental impacts on residents. Hearing from EPA officials is a critical step in educating the public and we look forward to continuing to work with Senator Schumer, Congressman Jones, and our federal, state, and local partners to address this issue."
Additionally, Schumer and Jones said that today’s announcement followed last month’s launch of their three-pronged plan, calling on EPA to immediately take bold steps to address PFAS found in Rockland and Westchester homes, schools, and communities. Standing in Clarkstown with environmental advocates, a few weeks ago Schumer and Jones called on EPA to finally set drinking water standards for two leading PFAS chemicals – PFOA and PFOS – they asked the agency to review the available health data on PFAS chemicals as a class and in groups and propose solutions for addressing these contaminants , and finally, they asked EPA to begin to immediately phase-out all non-essential uses of PFAS.
Rockland’s water system includes dozens of wells and multiple reservoirs contributing to the water supply. Suez’s water system serves most Rockland residents with more than 300,000 customers. According to a recent report by Riverkeeper, contamination is widespread in water sources across Rockland, with multiple PFAS detected.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are two types of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of manufactured chemicals, and 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. EPA currently has no enforceable drinking water standard for PFAS. Instead, it has set a health advisory level for PFOS and PFOA at 70ppt. Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects.
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