Governor Cuomo Announces $200 Million to Address Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water

$185 Million Available for Water Treatment System Upgrades to Combat Emerging Contaminants PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane.

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Albany, NY - October 3, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $200 million in grant funding to help communities address federally unregulated contaminants in their drinking water supplies, a national issue that is still lacking federal guidance. The funding will provide advanced support and assistance for communities to combat emerging contaminants, as the State prepares to take the important step of setting enforceable drinking water standards for the emerging contaminants PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane.
Of the grant funding, $185 million will be available to communities across the state to upgrade drinking water treatment systems to combat emerging contaminants, prioritizing PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane. The remaining $15 million has been awarded to communities already pursuing system upgrades and innovative pilot technologies to treat emerging contaminants. Additionally, the Governor directed the Department of Health, Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Environmental Facilities Corporation to provide technical assistance to communities to help assess system needs and apply for grant funding. 
"Safe drinking water is critical for public health and economic prosperity and communities should not be left to fend for themselves when it comes to removing dangerous contaminants," Governor Cuomo said. "While the federal government fails to set national standards and guidelines for safe drinking water, New York is prepared to take action in the absence of federal leadership. This funding will ensure communities have the technology and support they need to provide their residents with quality drinking water, creating a safer, healthier New York for all."
"It's critical that we ensure our drinking water is free of contaminants and safe for all New Yorkers," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "This investment to tackle the serious issue of contaminants will address immediate needs to enhance and protect water quality. We want to make sure that communities have the resources they need to make upgrades to their water treatment systems and ensure the health and safety of residents."
$185 Million Available 
With today's announcement, $185 million in grant funding will be available to communities across the state seeking to upgrade their drinking water treatment systems to address the emerging contaminants PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane. Municipalities will have access to grants to fund up to 60 percent of a project's costs up to $3 million, or 40 percent of a project's costs up to $10 million. Eligible projects may include carbon systems to remove PFOA/PFOS from drinking water and Advanced Oxidative Process technologies to remove 1,4-dioxane. Additionally, for the first time, eligible public water systems may apply for grants to help fund the planning and development of an engineering report for an infrastructure project that will combat emerging contaminants. Grants may be up to $50,000 depending upon system size and population served. This funding is made possible by Governor Cuomo's historic $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act. 
In addition to grant programs, the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation administers the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which offers zero or low-interest financing to communities to further reduce the cost of water infrastructure projects. For more information, please visit the DWSRF page on the EFC website. 
Grant applications and additional information are now available here. Completed applications and supporting documentation must be submitted to: NYSWaterGrants@efc.ny.gv by Friday, January 11, 2019.
$15 Million Awarded 
Governor Cuomo has awarded $15 million to communities already pursuing system upgrades and innovative pilot technologies to treat certain emerging contaminants. Projects receiving grant funding include:
  • Bethpage Water District (Nassau County): $1.65 million to upgrade water treatment facility, including an AOP system to treat 1,4-dioxane
  • South Huntington Water District (Suffolk County): $3 million to upgrade water treatment facility, including an AOP system to treat 1,4-dioxane
  • Suffolk County Water Authority (Suffolk County): $9.7 million to advance the Wainscott water main project and address PFOS
  • Town of Petersburgh (Rensselaer County): $750,000 to upgrade groundwater source, storage, and distribution systems and address PFAS
Overall, the $15 million in grant funding will support more than $34 million in project costs and represents almost $25 million in taxpayer savings for these communities. Further, this funding will support the creation of approximately 550 jobs. These grants are made possible by Governor Cuomo's $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act's WIIA and Intermunicipal Water Infrastructure Grant programs. To date, more than $1 billion has been allocated through the Clean Water Infrastructure Act to address clean water and drinking water challenges in New York communities.  
In addition, $750,000 has been awarded in coordination with the Stony Brook Center for Clean Water Technology to Long Island municipalities piloting a new water treatment technology known as Advanced Oxidative Process, which has proven to be effective at removing 1,4-dioxane from drinking water. The Suffolk County Water Authority recently activated New York State's first successful use of this new AOP technology to reduce levels of 1,4-dioxane. The grant awards are as follows:
  • Plainview and Greenlawn Water Districts: $369,000 in grant funding
  • Suffolk County Water Authority: $222,205 in grant funding
  • Hicksville Water District: $162,330 in grant funding
Technical Assistance 
Governor Cuomo has directed the New York State Water Quality Rapid Response Team to provide immediate technical assistance to communities interested in assessing system needs and applying for grant funding. The Department of Health and the Environmental Facilities Corporation will be holding webinars in the coming weeks to help public water systems navigate the grant funding application process. Additionally, DOH will offer technical assistance based upon its successful oversight of carbon filtration and AOP treatment systems in other parts of the state. This will include engineering consultation, establishing monitoring and operational protocols, and guidance for potential grant and loan financing options. Established by Governor Cuomo in 2016, the New York State Water Quality Rapid Response Team continues to implement an aggressive protocol to reduce exposure to emerging contaminants in drinking water.
Drinking Water Quality Council 
The New York State Drinking Water Quality Council will meet on Wednesday, October 17 at 10:00 AM to address the recent federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry report recommending new minimum risk levels for emerging contaminants like PFOA and PFOS, as well as discuss ways to address a broader group of related per and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals. The Council is tasked with making recommendations for Maximum Contaminant Levels for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-dioxane.
Council recommendations will be considered by the Commissioner of Health, who will accept the recommended Maximum Contaminant Levels or propose alternate levels, ultimately issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to be published in the New York State Register. Following a public comment period, the proposed regulation will be either revised or submitted for adoption by the Public Health and Health Planning Council, subject to the approval of the Commissioner of Health. 
The Drinking Water Quality Council was enacted as part of the FY2018 Budget to identify strategies to protect the quality of New York's drinking water. The 12-member Council is chaired by New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and includes State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and 10 other individuals appointed for their expertise in water operations, risk assessment, toxicology, microbiology, and environmental engineering.
Despite New York State's repeated calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to establish an official drinking water standard, the federal government has not regulated emerging contaminants PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-dioxane, which are present in drinking water sources all over the country. The federal EPA has repeatedly shifted guidance, establishing lifetime health advisory levels for PFOA/PFOS and 1,4-dioxane, but failing to set legally enforceable standards, called Maximum Contaminant Levels, which require systems to monitor, report findings, and to keep the contaminant below the level. Moreover, the recent release of a federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry report recommending new minimum risk levels for PFOA and PFOS compounds the lack of consistent guidance and oversight.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). They 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. They are also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes. The solvent 1,4-dioxane is used in a variety of industrial and commercial applications, such as in the manufacture of other chemicals, as a processing aid, a laboratory chemical, and in adhesives and sealants. 
Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker said, "Here in New York, we're staying one step ahead of addressing federally unregulated chemicals in drinking water by allocating necessary resources to explore and tailor proven treatment options. We are pleased to be able to support these water systems as they determine the best treatment technology to ensure that exposure is minimized and public health is protected." 
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "While the Federal Government is not acting, Governor Cuomo is once again taking bold actions to protect clean water. These new investments will ensure communities have the resources they need to provide clean water and will bolster our ongoing efforts to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up sources of contamination.  DEC stands ready to assist any community impacted by contamination as we continue our efforts to protect and restore water quality throughout the state."
Environmental Facilities Corporation President and CEO Sabrina M. Ty said, "Governor Cuomo's record of environmental leadership is beyond reproach and I applaud his announcements today. Clean drinking water is central to the prosperity of our communities and EFC stands ready to do its part as we seek to create a healthier New York for everyone."
Director of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at SUNY Stony Brook Christopher J. Gobler, Ph.D. said, "Emerging contaminants like 1,4 dioxane, PFOA, and PFOS are serious threats to NY's water supplies. These are critical, forward-looking steps that will help ensure citizens of New York are receiving the cleanest drinking water treatment technologies can provide."
New York State leads the nation with the largest annual investment in water-quality infrastructure of any state. The $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 continues to help local governments pay for water infrastructure construction projects, address water emergencies, and investigate and mitigate emerging contaminants to ensure access to clean, drinkable water for all New Yorkers. Part of that investment includes the WIIA and IMG programs which, since 2015, have provided $480 million in grant funding supporting nearly $1.9 billion in total project costs for 290 vital drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects in New York State. Combined with zero- or low-interest financings through the State Environmental Facilities Corporation, nearly $1.2 billion has been saved for taxpayers and more than 31,000 jobs have been created.