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NY groups demand state take action on clean water

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) - Contaminated water in New York has been linked to major health problems in communities across the state. Although the deadline for the first step in addressing this problem is approaching, environmental groups say little is being done.

"I have contracted bladder cancer and my wife has contracted bone and marrow cancer," Michelle O’Leary, Hoosick Falls resident and NYWaterProject member, said.

O'Leary is telling a friend's story, but accounts like these have been coming out of communities like Hoosick Falls and Newburgh for years now. Environmental groups say they won't stop until the dangerous toxins in the drinking water are removed.

"Our property values have diminished from the stain of this poisoned water and our approaching retirement is uncertain," Cathy Dawson, Hoosick Falls resident, Nurse, and NYWaterProject member, said. 

A year ago, Governor Cuomo created the Drinking Water Quality Council that was tasked with the job of establishing the maximum amount of toxic chemicals that should be allowed in the water. Even though the high level of toxins are known to cause health problems, there is no state limit that can manage these chemicals.

"The public has a basic right and expectation that they're government is going to assure them that the water from their taps is safe and clean to drink. Unfortunately, we can't rely anymore on the federal government for that basic assurance," Liz Moran, Environmental Advocates of New York, said.

The deadline for this report is in five days, and the drinking water council has supposedly held only two meetings in the past year. So environmental groups are asking, what's the holdup?

"They have environmental experts on task. They've established maximum contaminant levels before and they should go ahead, they have the authority to do this," Moran said.

The Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation issued this joint statement:

“New York remains deeply committed to providing access to clean drinking water for residents.  While setting an MCL is an important step, it involves a complex regulatory process to set achievable and enforceable standards that will fully protect New Yorkers for decades to come.  The EPA has failed to act, but the state is taking aggressive actions to ensure New Yorkers are not exposed to unregulated contaminants in their water supplies.  The Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health have and continue to deploy unprecedented resources supported by an historic financial commitment to hold polluters accountable and to safeguard public health and the environment.  We expect to continue our work and our commitment is unwavering."

The people in these communities feel they still deserve answers and results.

"These are some of 5,000 postcards we have collected from across the state, urging the council to set stringent limits on those three chemicals," NYPIRG said.

"The current guidance of 70 parts per trillion is far too high to be safe for public health. New York State who is seen as a public leader should show the rest of the country the way," Moran said.

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