For Release: Monday, March 13, 2017
New York State's Water Quality Rapid Response Team Announces New Actions to Address Water Contamination in Washington County
Water Quality Rapid Response Team Finds PFOA and PFOS Contamination at Paper Composting Facility
DEC Directs Facility to Cease Distribution of Finished Compost Until Investigation is Complete
Initial Investigation Reveals No Impact to Public Water Systems and Private Wells Tested Below Health Advisory Level
DEC and DOH Launch Statewide Investigation of Recycled Paper Mill Sludge and Processing Facilities
New York State's Water Quality Rapid Response Team today announced new actions to address water contamination in Washington County after releasing the preliminary results of an investigation at the CTI Agri-Cycle compost facility in Cambridge, NY. The investigation, led by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Health (DOH) with support from the Department of Agriculture and Markets, revealed the presence of six perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), in paper mill sludge, finished compost material, and water flowing from the compost to the collection pond, as well as in the facility's groundwater monitoring well and storm water collection pond.
The Team has been sampling private wells in Cambridge since May, and launched an initial investigation into the CTI Agri-Cycle facility in January after receiving a tip from a private well owner in December. To date, no public water systems have been impacted and nine private wells in the immediate area of the CTI Agri-cycle compost facility that have been tested contain contamination below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lifetime health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS combined. To date, four residents have requested and received point of entry treatment (POET) systems. DOH has made initial attempts to reach an additional 10 homeowners to test their private wells and launched a door-to-door campaign last week. Efforts to contact residents will continue.
"New York State is committed to ensuring every community has access to clean drinking water. DEC will continue to investigate any threat of water contamination in any community while holding polluters accountable," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Our job is not done until we have identified and addressed this source of contamination and eliminated the risk to public health and the environment."
"The Water Quality Rapid Response Team continues to work proactively to investigate potential sources of contamination and ensure they are not impacting drinking water supplies," said DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "We are taking an aggressive approach throughout the state to ensure that water resources and access to clean drinking water are protected in every community."
The CTI Agri-Cycle compost facility processes yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings, along with paper mill sludge, which is a byproduct of paper manufacturing used to create compost material that is applied to farm fields near the facility as a soil amendment to increase organic matter and improve soil quality. DEC regulates paper mill sludges, which includes testing to confirm these sludges meet current regulatory requirements, but currently does not include testing for the emerging contaminants PFOA and PFOS. The Team will conduct further investigations to determine the source(s) of the PFC contamination at the facility, and may require additional actions by CTI Agri-Cycle to address those sources.
The Team's continued investigation of CTI Agri-Cycle will include the sampling of farm fields, pond water, and monitoring wells to evaluate the extent of the PFC contamination. Additionally, DEC will evaluate CTI Agri-Cycle's water management operations and revisit the facility's current State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit and current Beneficial Use Determinations (BUD) for facility operations. Concurrently, DOH will continue to sample private wells in the vicinity of the facility to identify whether these wells are impacted by PFCs and whether actions are necessary to reduce exposure. The Team will continue to share the results of the ongoing investigation with residents in the community.
DEC has directed the company to immediately cease any transportation of compost from the facility. The Team has launched an expanded investigation of other paper mill sludge-generating and processing facilities statewide to track down any other potential cases of PFCs in paper sludge, thus far identifying six mills that process recycled paper with authorization to reuse or distribute the resulting sludge as well as six facilities, in addition to Agri-Cycle, that use recycled paper sludge in their manufacturing processes. Additionally, the Team has commenced an investigation and immediate mapping of each facility to determine proximity to public and private water supplies along with extensive sampling of sludge material from the mills.
As part of the Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo is proposing legislation to mandate the testing of regulated drinking water systems for unregulated contaminants, including PFOA and PFOS. Under the EPA Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, public water supplies that serve less than 10,000 people are not required to test for any unregulated contaminants, leaving some 2.5 million New Yorkers on untested systems. Through the Governor's proposal, water systems would begin testing for PFOA and PFOS this year, and small community water supplies will be eligible to receive financial hardship funding.
In January, Governor Cuomo also announced the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 to invest a record $2 billion in critical water infrastructure across New York State. The $2 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act will provide the capital dollars needed to upgrade municipal drinking water systems, improve municipal wastewater systems, and protect drinking water at its source, and includes additional support for the state Superfund program.
This historic investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and in addition to source water protection actions will enhance community health and wellness, safeguard our most important water resources, and create jobs. Funding for projects will prioritize regional and watershed level solutions, and incentivize consolidation and sharing of water and wastewater services.