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Schumer Says, After Years Of Studies & Ongoing Public Health Risks From Exposure, EPA Finally States Their Intention To Set A Maximum Contaminant Level Under The Safe Drinking Water Act, But They Won’t Make A Formal Regulatory Determination Until The End Of 2019 

Schumer Says It’s Time For EPA To Commit To An Accelerated Timeline & Make Drinking Water Standard Their Top Priority    

Schumer To EPA: No More Empty Promises, It’s Time To Expedite This Timeline & Set A Stringent MCL Once And For All

Standing at the University at Albany’s Cancer Research Center in East Greenbush, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that – after relentless pressure from his office and an array of advocates and impacted community members – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally stated, in a letter to the senator, their intention to set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for highly toxic PFOA/PFOS chemicals. Schumer said that while this was a step in the right direction, EPA has routinely displayed a lack of urgency in addressing the PFAS crisis, and called on the EPA to expedite the process, adopt an aggressive timeline and issue a drinking water standard to protect public health with all due speed. Schumer said EPA must stop kicking the can down the road and instead must adopt a standard as soon as possible to protect public health and facilitate future cleanup efforts.

“The relentless advocacy of those in communities like Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, combined with the compelling scientific facts about the severe toxicity to humans from PFAS contamination, has finally compelled the EPA to stop denying the problem and, for the first time, say they intend to set a maximum drinking water standard. This is a necessary first step. But, given their foot-dragging on this issue, we must not allow EPA to kick the can down the road, and delay, delay, and study and delay,” said Senator Schumer.

“The EPA in this administration has a sad history of foot-dragging – and bending over backwards to protect polluters, not the public’s health –  which is why I’m telling them that it is absolutely imperative they establish an MCL on an expedited timeline. Whether you’re living in Suffolk County, Newburgh, or right here in Rensselaer County, you deserve to know that the water you’re drinking is safe. That’s why the EPA must do its job, and not pass the buck when it comes to setting a tough MCL standard with all due speed that truly protects public health from insidious PFAS exposure,” said Senator Schumer. “We know right now that PFAS-related chemicals are prevalent, that they are extremely toxic and cause cancers and other ailments, and that they have no place in anyone’s drinking water. Setting a tough clear national drinking water standard – ASAP – should be job #1 at the EPA. And, given how much this EPA has worked to undermine health standards and make life easy for polluters, we are going to be watching them like hawks to see that they don’t try to stretch this process out interminably,” said Schumer.

In May of 2018, Schumer pushed the federal government to release a study on PFAS chemicals and their impacts on drinking water and public health. The study, released last year by the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), found that PFAS can pose risks to the most vulnerable populations at levels lower than what the EPA said was safe in its 2016 health advisory. The study also described how people are exposed to the chemicals, and the health risks that these chemicals pose for different populations. Upon learning that top administration officials attempted to cover up the results of this HHS study, Schumer demanded its release. The report was released a month later. Schumer, today, cautioned that the same kind of harmful cover up methods cannot stand when it comes to setting a tough federal drinking water standards.

Last May, then-EPA Administrator Pruitt convened a PFAS National Leadership Summit and announced that the EPA would take numerous steps to address the PFAS contamination. However, nearly a year later, last week the EPA released their PFAS Management Plan, and appeared not to have made much progress. While Pruitt announced last May that the EPA would initiate steps under the Safe Drinking Water Act to evaluate the need for an MCL, last week the EPA announced that it could take another nine to ten months to issue a formal regulatory determination, which is a necessary step for establishing the formal drinking water standard. Schumer said that even though the EPA said in writing that they intend to set an MCL, they displayed a lack of urgency in addressing the PFAS crisis, and cannot be allowed to do so again.

Schumer has relentlessly to address the PFOA contamination at Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh – and at other PFAS-contaminated locations in New York, like Newburgh and near Gabreski Air Force Base in Suffolk County. In January 2016 Schumer, in a letter to Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, urged the company to address the contamination at Hoosick Falls. In May of 2016, Schumer pushed the EPA to immediately release its updated drinking water health advisory. Schumer said it was critical to address and remediate the full scope of the contamination and fought to get the critical Superfund designation for Hoosick Falls.

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. They are common primary ingredients in the firefighting foam that was used at Air National Guard bases for training and fire-suppression exercises, according to state regulators. Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter below:

Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler:

I write to urge you to make it a top EPA priority to swiftly establish a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act for Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). While I was pleased by the EPA’s statement in writing last week, that the agency intends to establish an MCL for PFOA and PFOS, given this agency’s recent lack of urgency on protecting the public health, and its lax disposition with regard to policing toxic pollution,, I am deeply concerned by the lack of urgency that the EPA has displayed in its actions addressing the threat of Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). Despite then-Administrator Pruitt’s statements at the PFAS National Leadership Summit in May of last year, it appears that little progress has been made. I therefore urge you to act with the urgency that this crisis deserves and to commit to an aggressive timeline in adopting a drinking water standard for these contaminants.

As you are aware, PFAS chemicals are a widespread class of toxic chemicals contaminating drinking water across the nation.  These chemicals have been linked to a number of adverse health effects, including certain types of cancers.  Within the state of New York several communities struggle with drinking water contamination, human exposure, and clean up challenges due to PFOA and PFAS pollution. In delaying an enforceable standard, the EPA will limit the public’s knowledge about their possible exposure to these toxic substances, and hinder cleanup efforts. Our communities cannot continue to wait to understand and comprehensively combat the environmental and health risks they face from PFAS.

Federal drinking water standards are needed to guide policy makers, regulators, and states, as we combat this nationwide challenge.  Federal leadership from the EPA will provide tools to states, tribes, and local communities to secure safe drinking water. I strongly urge you to establish a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS as soon as possible. It is imperative the EPA fulfills its mission to protect human health and the environment, from the known dangers of PFAS. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.