SCHUMER REVEALS: FEDS ON VERGE OF NOT SETTING DRINKING WATER STANDARD FOR HIGHLY TOXIC PFOA/PFOS CHEMICALS THAT HAVE PLAGUED LI; SCHUMER MAKES PUBLIC PUSH ON EPA TO REVERSE COURSE & ISSUE DRINKING WATER STANDARD TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH; FEDS MUST BE HELD TO ACCOUNT
Schumer Already Successfully Fought The Feds When They Tried To Block A Critical Report On Dangers Of LI PFOA/PFOS, And Now, Ahead Of Senate Confirmation Of New EPA Chief, Senator Is Publicly Sounding Alarm & Demanding Action
Schumer Says Establishing A Federal Drinking Water Standard For PFOA/PFOS Is A Crucial Step In Addressing Health Risks & Ensuring Feds Don’t Dismiss Local Contamination In Other Ways
Schumer: LI’ers Deserve The Truth About Their Water & The Feds Need To Tell It
On the heels of a personal meeting with Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and standing at Long Island’s Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment with local advocates, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer made a public push to pressure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse course on a likely imminent decision to not set drinking water standards for highly toxic chemicals already found on the Island. Schumer made the case as to why Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler should reverse course and commit to setting a maximum contaminant level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFOA and PFOS as soon as possible. Schumer argued that in failing to set a federal standard, the federal government is both limiting the public’s knowledge about their possible exposure to these contaminants and hindering potential cleanup efforts.
“The EPA is supposed to be the cop on the beat, protecting Long Island’s drinking water. They should do their job, not pass the buck when it comes to regulating toxic PFOA and PFOS contaminants,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “In my recent and personal meeting with Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler, I can confirm the notion that the feds are on the verge of not setting drinking water standards that accurately reflect the dangers of these chemicals and that is really troubling for two reasons. First, it means that states and localities across the country will be forced to spend real dollars on doing it themselves. Second, it means that the federal government is –yet again-- looking for any and all ways to downplay the severity of this issue and potentially walk away from other commitments—now or in the future—that we need them to keep locally at Gabreski, and with the Suffolk County Water Authority.
“We have already witnessed this EPA try to hide the details of a report on these chemicals and so to walk away from a drinking water standard raises both eyebrows and serious concerns for the future. We need the feds to focus on this issue, not hide from it,” Schumer added.
Schumer and CCE explained that the class of toxic chemicals, including PFOS and PFOA, have contaminated drinking water and impacted thousands of lives in communities across New York and the United States, including Long Island. Schumer said there is still time to apply pressure on this issue and to ensure the best standards for public health and drinking water. The Senator had a warning for the EPA: limiting the public’s knowledge about their possible exposure to these toxic substances will hinder potential cleanup efforts locally, and make it more difficult to protect public health overall. Schumer also warned that allowing the feds to turn a blind eye here could have a ripple impact in other ways on the Island.
In May of last year, Schumer had to fight the EPA to release a study on the chemicals and their impacts on drinking water. The study, released last week 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 and began a public push. The report was released a month later. Schumer, today, cautioned that the same kind of duck and cover methods cannot stand when it comes to official and federal drinking water standards.
And also last year, and after a strategy meeting he held at Gabreski with the Suffolk County Water Authority and local leaders, Schumer announced that the final bipartisan FY 2019 Defense Appropriations bill included an amendment he and Gillibrand authored to refund the Suffolk County Water Authority and ratepayers for toxic clean-up costs they should have never had to pay. The accomplishment authorized the first-ever $20 million in federal funding for the Air Force and the National Guard to make payments to reimburse local water authorities for the cleanup of PFAS contamination due to Air Force- and National Guard-related activities. Specifically, some of the funds will be used to pay back the Suffolk County Water Authority
, for response costs to the PFAS contamination in the areas surrounding Gabreski.
Schumer has long fought to address toxic chemical PFOA/PFOS contamination across New York State. In March 2017, he and Senator Gillibrand introduced legislation that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a maximum contaminant level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act within 2 years. Today, Schumer said, pending the EPA’s final decision, they could re-introduce this legislation.
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. Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects.
A copy of the Schumer’s letter to the EPA, also signed by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, appears below:
Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler:
We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not intend to move forward with establishing an enforceable drinking water standard for Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) at this time. Failure to establish a clear, national drinking water standard for these highly-toxic and prevalent chemicals would be a mistake, and would make it more difficult to protect public health. Therefore, we strongly urge you to reverse course and commit to setting a maximum contaminant level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFOA and PFOS as soon as possible.
As you know, Perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a class of toxic chemicals affecting communities across the nation. Several communities in our state of New York are confronting massive drinking water contamination, human exposure and clean-up challenges due to PFOA and PFOS pollution. These chemical substances are linked to certain cancers and other serious adverse health effects. They are often used to manufacture products like fabric protectors, firefighting foam, and stain repellents due to rigorous chemical properties that also make them persistent in the environment and resistant to degradation. The likelihood that the challenges that confront these communities will occur in a number of other American communities is high and the existence of an objective, national standard is vital to guide policy makers’ and regulators’ approaches to this challenge.
In deciding not to set a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS, the EPA is limiting the public’s knowledge about their possible exposure to these toxic substances, and hindering potential cleanup efforts. Federal inaction on setting limits for these two contaminants is not acceptable. We understand that the PFAS management plan is still under interagency review, and we therefore strongly urge you to reverse course and to expeditiously begin work on setting a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS.
Charles E. Schumer Kirsten Gillibrand
United States Senator United States Senator