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EPA to curb dumping of toxic chemicals into drinking water

A group of people sit on the edge of a body of water.
Onondaga County
Parkgoers sit at the shore of Onondaga Lake.

Environmental groups and elected officials in New York are applauding the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision setting new maximum contaminant levels for certain chemicals in drinking water. 

U.S. Sen. Kristin Gillibrand was one of the advocates for these new maximum levels, starting with her Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act.

PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are long-lasting chemicals that take a very long time to break down and have been linked to adverse health effects in both humans and animals. PFAS, along with PFOA and PFOS, are found in industrial and consumer products and are essentially everywhere and in anything man-made.

Gillibrand said the EPA’s proposed limits reflect those in her proposed legislation, and also follows the guidance laid out in the bill. 

"PFAS chemicals seeping into our drinking water is a widespread crisis that is putting the health of millions of Americans at risk," Gillibrand said. "Today, I’m proud that EPA has heeded my call and is taking critical steps to set enforceable limits on toxic, cancer-causing PFAS chemicals in our water."

Rob Hayes with Environmental Advocates said in a statement that the standards for PFOA, PFOS and PFAS are a historic victory to prevent exposure to the cancer-causing chemicals. 

The chemicals from industrial sites have seeped into drinking water sources in parts of New York, prompting calls for state and federal action.  

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at
Andrew MacBeath is a digital content editor at WAER.