Rep. Kathleen Rice’s amendment to help Long Island communities

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Rep. Kathleen Rice is running unopposed for reelection in the June 23 Democratic primary. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Kathleen Rice via Twitter)

Bipartisan amendment included in House passage of water contamination bill authorizes $50 million in grants to reimburse water districts for past PFAS contamination expenses.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act of 2019, a comprehensive bill to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), clean up water contamination, and protect public health. A bipartisan amendment offered by Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY-04), and co-sponsored by Reps. Peter King (NY-02) and Tom Suozzi (NY-03), was included in the final passage. The amendment authorizes $50 million in new grant funding for communities across the country that have already incurred past PFAS water contamination expenses, including local municipalities on Long Island. The bill passed by a vote of 247-149.

“Water contamination has been a costly public health issue for years on Long Island,” Rice said. “I was proud to vote for this bill which included my amendment to reimburse local water districts that have been footing the bill to fight this crisis for far too long. I’m pleased the federal government is finally stepping in to ensure families have access to the clean drinking water they deserve.” 

“Families must always have clean drinking water but it imperative that their local communities are reimbursed for expenses in ensuring this right,” said King. “I am proud to work with Reps. Rice and Suozzi on this important legislation.”

“PFAS chemicals are a clear danger to our families and the environment,” Suozzi said. “We have known about these ‘forever chemicals’ for years and unfortunately it has been local communities, like ours on Long Island, that have been picking up the tab and treating our drinking water. I’m proud to support Rep. Rice’s amendment that reimburses communities for prior expenses on PFAS treatment technologies because it’s simply what’s fair.” 

According to a May 2019 study by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), Long Island has the most contaminated drinking water in the state. Several contaminants, including PFAS, were detected above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) safety levels. 

“The public has the basic right and expectation of government that when they turn on their taps, their water will be safe for them to drink. But that has been taken away by toxic PFAS chemicals that have polluted the water supplies serving millions of New Yorkers, and millions of other Americans,” Liz Moran, environmental policy director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, said. “The PFAS Action Act includes crucial measures to give justice to these communities and to prevent future contamination crises. We thank Representative Rice for her support of this legislation and commitment to making sure victims of these chemicals aren’t the ones footing the bill. We urge the Senate to do right by Americans and pass this legislation swiftly.” 

“Long Island’s water providers are working tirelessly to implement treatment for emerging contaminants PFAS and 1,4-dioxane,” Long Island Water Conference Chairman Rich Passariello said. “The state-of-the-art treatment systems needed to remove these new contaminants from our water bear an enormous financial cost. We greatly appreciate Congresswoman Rice seeking an additional funding stream for PFAS treatment through this amendment as it would provide much needed—and much deserved—relief to Long Island ratepayers.”   

The PFAS Action Act of 2019 directs the EPA to address PFAS contamination in several ways, including: 

  • Preventing further PFAS environmental contamination by requiring cleanup of contaminated sites, setting air emission limits, prohibiting unsafe incineration of PFAS, and limiting the introduction of new PFAS chemicals into commerce.
  • Identifying health risks by requiring comprehensive health testing and monitoring for PFAS in drinking water. 
  • Requiring a stronger drinking water standard for PFAS that protects public health, including the health of vulnerable subpopulations.  
  • Providing funding through the PFAS Infrastructure Grant Program to assist local communities with impacted water systems.

The PFAS Infrastructure grant program was originally reserved for local water districts, which had yet to remedy PFAS contamination. However, several Long Island communities have been incurring PFAS-related costs for years. Rice’s amendment makes funding available to these communities by allocating an additional $50 million to the grant program solely for reimbursing water districts that have already sustained past PFAS-related costs. 

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