New York to start testing for three new drinking water contaminants

ALBANY COUNTY — The New York State Department of Health has set maximum levels for three emerging drinking water contaminants: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), and 1,4-dioxane.

PFOA and PFOS have each been set at a maximum contaminant level of 10 parts per trillion, while 1,4-dioxane has been set at 1 part per billion. 

The tests required to monitor these chemicals will not likely strain local water-supply budgets, said the superintendent of Voorheesville’s Department of Public Works, Brett Hotaling.

“The new required tests don’t add much if any work to get them done because they will be added in with other samples but it will add to the cost,” Hotaling told The Enterprise. When asked what that cost might be for Voorheesville, Hotaling said he had not looked into exact cost, adding, “I don’t anticipate a big increase in our yearly testing expense.”

A press release from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office describes the regulation setting the 1,4-dioxane level as “first in the nation,” though a 2017 Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet for the chemical lists guidelines issued by 18 other states, some of which recommend levels lower than 1 part per billion in drinking and groundwater.  

Massachusetts, for instance, has a guideline of .3 micrograms per liter, which correlates to .3 parts per billion. As of the fact sheet’s publication, New Hampshire had the most stringent guideline at .25 micrograms per liter.

These guidelines are not maximum contaminant levels, but action levels, which mean that state-regulated actions are triggered when the threshold is exceeded.

The EPA is still performing a risk evaluation on 1,4-dioxane, suggesting that it is only a likely carcinogen, but the agency has already established a health advisory for PFOA and PFOS.

“To provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water, EPA has established the health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion,” the EPA website says.

The impact of exposure to PFOA and PFOS vary from developmental effects to fetuses and breastfed infants, increased cancer risk, and liver damage, among other issues.  


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