A water testing bill sponsored by Senator James Skoufis (D-39) passed this week. It promises to be a breakthrough in the ongoing statewide issue of water contamination.
The bill expands testing for toxic chemicals in drinking water. Through this legislation, every municipality will be able to detect 40 different contaminants.
“This bill requires virtually every water system in the state to test for those contaminants,” he said in an email interview.
Skoufis’ district includes Newburgh, which found itself in a drinking water crisis five years ago. Lake Washington, the city’s main reservoir, had PFAS and PFOS contaminants.
Exposures to these toxins often leads to physical and mental health issues.
Skoufis cites increased cholesterol levels, cancers and high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women as some of the physical health conditions people living in water-contaminated communities live with.
As for mental health concerns, stress and trauma are also conditions people living in these communities deal with. These can stem from suffering in silence and confusion over how the water became contaminated, according to Skoufis.
“The kind of comprehensive exposure studies that would give us a clearer picture about the health impacts of environmental disasters are just starting to happen,” he said via email.
His bill, which Governor Andrew Cuomo is likely to sign, comes as 64 percent of New Yorkers voiced concern for water pollution in a recent Siena College poll.
In New York and elsewhere, low-income communities often feel the harshest impact from environmental disasters.
“Time and time again, low-income communities bear the brunt of environmental hazards,” said Skoufis.
As controversies across New York continue, Skoufis believes now is the time for real change.
“All New Yorkers deserve clean drinking water and to know their families are not in harm’s way,” he said.