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Legislature discusses water tests

SCHUYLER COUNTY--At Monday night's meeting of the Schuyler County Legislature it was said that Montour Falls would not independently test their local water supply for fluorinated organic chemicals (PFAS) after a lake protection group said they found elevated levels in a third-party study released last week.
"The water operator is convinced there is not a problem there, and the village will not be sampling on their own," said Jim Howell, county legislator (R-Montour Falls).
However, Howell added it was the hope of Montour Falls officials that the State Department of Health would eventually conduct their own testing.
Discussion over potential PFAS contamination in local water supplies has become a talking point for Watkins Glen and Montour Falls following the release of study results facilitated by the Seneca Lake Guardian, a local non-profit dedicated to protecting the Finger Lakes. They reported PFAS levels between 20.1 and 13.7 parts per trillion.
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS chemicals and other associated chemicals can cause development issues during pregnancy and breast feeding, affect the thyroid, liver, kidneys, hormone levels and the immune system when exposed in sufficient quantities.
Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk has already announced he would order additional testing despite stating that local water is safe to use under state and federal regulations.
When discussing the situation Monday night Howell questioned whether or not the results of the test were even valid in the first place.
"As I understand it, from the State Health Department themselves, is that (the Guardian) did not get their results from a certified lab, and there are only a half dozen across the country that are," Howell said.
According to the Guardian press release, the tests were performed by "the University of Michigan Biological Station Lab from different locations, including Montour Falls, Watkins Glen and Seneca County Municipal Water Supplies along with three private wells in Romulus, N.Y."
As of right now, there are no legally enforceable standards on the presence of PFAS or related chemicals in public drinking water under state or federal regulations.
Currently, New York is proposing an enforceable limit of 10 parts per trillion for PFAS chemicals, though it has yet to be enacted. The EPA has set a health advisory at 70 parts per trillion.
After Howell's comments, County Administrator Tim O'Hearn questioned the "unscientific, unconfirmed testing" and the way the data was combined.
PFAS, of which there are roughly 5,000 variants, are manmade fluorinated organic chemicals that in the past were used extensively in manufacturing processes. It is still used as a component of firefighting foam used to extinguish petroleum-based fires.
During the meeting, the legislature voted unanimously to pass all motions on the table with no discussion. No one from the public spoke and legislators Van A. Harp and David M. Reed were not in attendance.

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