EPA sets health advisory level for lifetime exposure to PFOA

WASHINGTON (NEWS10) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a lifetime drinking water health advisory of 70 parts per trillion for human exposure to PFOA.

The EPA said the advisory is to provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water.

People in the Capital Region have been waiting for the health advisory for some time. But some said it makes the situation much scarier.

People who have been drinking the contaminated water for years are worried of the health effects. The EPA confirmed long-term exposure of PFOA above 70 ppt can cause cancer and several other health problems.

Now, eyes are on the New York State Capitol as people wait to see if Governor Andrew Cuomo will act.

“We still don’t have our blood tests, so many folks don’t have point of entry treatment systems that need them,” Michele Baker, Hoosick resident, said. “They don’t have water test results. I mean it’s just been a failure by New York State. This is Governor Cuomo’s chance to step up, find an acceptable health level, and protect the safety of all New Yorkers.”

The health advisory requires local, county and state officials to promptly notify the public and take action by consulting with the state water agency.

Michael Hickey is the man who discovered the PFOA contamination in the village of Hoosick Falls.

“With the number, it also gives you steps to follow,” he said. “And I think that’s really where our local government fell down. It was really: what do you do when you find it?”

Health officials pour over the EPA’s announcement, but they will follow the EPA’s guidance of 70 parts per trillion.

More information on the health advisories for PFOA/PFOS.

The Cuomo Administration said it is pushing the New York State Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation to give an update on the state’s plan. Back in March, Cuomo said they were waiting on the EPA to set a lifetime health advisory for them.

“Once they set that level, then it’s our responsibility at the state, local and county level to make sure we are doing what needs to do to hit that level,” he said at the time.

But for people without clean water, there isn’t a safe number.

“This just got more scarier today,” Baker said. “I mean, we were told first 400, then 100, now it’s down to 70. I mean, zero is the only acceptable number.”

In addition on Thursday, Taconic Plastics in Petersburgh was named a Superfund Site. The plant is now responsible for PFOA cleanup.

Private wells in Petersburgh that show PFOA levels above 70 ppt now quality for a carbon filter. In Hoosick Falls, all homeowners on private wells currently qualify for a filter.

But the state has yet to answer if the new advisory level from the EPA will change that.

Schumer Statement On EPA’s New PFOA And PFOS Standards:

“I am pleased that the EPA has heeded my call to release updated drinking water health advisories for the highly-toxic chemicals PFOA and PFOS. Communities like Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and Newburgh understand all too well the uncertainty and anxiety that contamination from these chemicals can cause. The EPA’s new guidance will go a long way in protecting public health and arming local officials with the most up-to-date information to keep our drinking water safe from harmful contaminates.” – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

Statement from Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD on U.S. EPA Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS Announced May 19, 2016

The Health Department evaluated all of the scientific information available at the time when setting Vermont’s advisory level of 20 parts per trillion for PFOA in drinking water.

Now that EPA has set a new advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS combined, we will evaluate the hundreds of pages of supporting documents just released by EPA to assess how this differs from our current advisory level, and consider if any changes are warranted.

We remain committed to protecting the health of Vermonters from these harmful chemicals.

New York State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and Acting Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today issued the following statement:

“Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo joined Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont and Governor Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire in calling on the federal Environmental Protection Agency to acknowledge that PFOA contamination is not a state or regional problem, but rather a national problem that requires consistent federal guidelines. We are pleased that the EPA has today issued a lifetime health advisory of 70 PPT for long-term exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. Both of our agencies are thoroughly reviewing the EPA’s guidance as we continue our aggressive efforts to ensure that all communities in New York State have access to water that’s safe to drink.

As part of Governor Cuomo’s Water Quality Rapid Response Task Force, DEC and DOH are working to evaluate potential threats to drinking water supplies statewide and assist communities with testing and technical assistance. In communities with elevated levels of PFOA and/or PFOS, the state is actively working with local officials to install filtration systems to remove contaminants, identify alternative water sources and/or take other appropriate actions to reduce exposure. The state will hold all responsible parties accountable for the costs associated with the full remediation of the contamination.”

PFOA and PFOS have been used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food, and other materials that are resistant to water, grease, or stains. In 2006, the EPA says they asked eight companies using PFOA to phase out use and chemicals used to break down PFOA. Those companies have stated at the end of 2015, they phased out the use of PFOA.

According to the EPA, the establishment of the advisories follows an assessment from the latest peer-reviewed science to provide water system operators, and state, tribal, and local officials who have the primary responsibility of overseeing these systems.

The state says it will review the EPA’s guidance and hold all responsible parties accountable for costs associated with full remediation of the contamination.