Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined his fellow state executives Peter Shumlin of Vermont and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire in formally asking the Environmental Protection Agency to “conduct a review of the best available science regarding perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in order to assess and ensure the safety of drinking water exposed to the contaminant.”
PFOA, used in the production of non-stick cookware, is the contaminant that has been at the center of the water crises in the Rensselaer County communities of Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh as well North Bennington, Vt., and Merrimack, N.H.
The same letter asks for full federal funding of the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water Revolving Fund.(Regular readers may recall that the EPA rebuffed the Cuomo administration’s attempts to allocate more than $500 million in low- and no-cost loans from the state’s tributary of that fund to finance the construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement.)
The EPA in January set 100 parts per trillion as the safe level for the sort of long-term exposure found in residential use (drinking, bathing, cooking). It had previously set 400 ppt as the safe level for short-term exposure, while advising residents in the affected communities to use bottled water.
The EPA’s regional press office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The requests came in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy:
Dear Administrator McCarthy,
We write as Governors whose states are all in the midst of addressing local drinking water contamination involving the federally unregulated chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). We are deeply concerned for the health and well-being of our communities grappling with this contaminant. In New York and New Hampshire, tests have indicated the presence of this chemical in public drinking water systems, and in New York and Vermont the chemical has been detected in several private wells. It is clear that PFOA contamination is not a state problem or a regional problem – it’s a national problem that requires federal guidelines and a consistent, science-based approach.
The EPA’s PFOA health advisory was recently lowered in one village in New York by the EPA’s Regional Office, though the higher advisory remains in the rest of the country. We urge the EPA, under your leadership, to expeditiously review the best available science on this contaminant, and provide uniform guidance to states that our health and environmental officials can use in assessing the safety of our drinking water. In addition, we seek your help and support for additional drinking water testing and analysis in communities exposed to PFOA.
We also are all strong supporters of full federal funding for water infrastructure. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is a critical tool for states to invest in modern and safe drinking water upgrades. Unfortunately, over the last six years funding for this program, and its companion Clean Water Revolving Fund, have been flat or declining. This comes even as the American Society of Civil Engineers points out massive gaps between our water infrastructure needs and our investment. We should invest more in both the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water Revolving Fund, and we look forward to working with you to make that happen.
We respectfully request your personal attention to the challenges created by PFOA contamination in our states. Consistency, accuracy, and uniformity are paramount. We look forward to your response and assistance as we work to identify the polluters responsible for this contamination, and hold them accountable for their actions. It is unacceptable to us that any community should have to be concerned about the safety of their drinking water. Families in our states are worried about potentially tragic short and long-term health impacts, not to mention the potential loss in property values for homes in affected areas. It has been our priority to ensure that residents are being provided clean and safe water immediately, and that our infrastructure be modernized to eliminate these concerns in the future.