The Environmental Protection Agency for the first time is imposing a national limit on per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in drinking water, an issue many New Yorkers are unfortunately familar with.

The measure should reduce exposure for about 100 milion people and help prevent illnesses associated with the “forever chemicals,” including cancer. That's something those who have experienced contamination firsthand say is bittersweet news.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to be the lab rat in all this, but it’s really validated everything that we’ve done here and accomplished,” said Michael Hickey of Hoosick Falls, a community formally plagued by PFAS contamination.

After his father’s passing due to kidney cancer, as well as various illnesses of neighbors, he’s became an advocate for clean drinking water. Hickey was honored by the EPA in 2016 for discovering high levels of the potentially cancer-causing chemical PFOA in the Hoosick Falls water supply.

“In a small town, you know your neighbors, you know what illnesses they have. The one common thread that ties people together is water,” he said.

Having testified before Congress, Hickey was elated to hear the EPA's announcement that it was requiring water providers to limit the amount of forever chemicals put into the environment by other industries to the lowest level they can be reliably measure.

“We were able to find the polluter pretty easily here," Hickey said. "With these smaller amounts, it's going to be harder to determine the polluter."

The EPA expects it to cost about $1.5 billion a year for municipalities to implement the rule, which has been a sticking point for people opposing it, as it will undoubtedly trickle down to consumers.

Advocates believe protecting human health outweighs any costs.

“The science has continued to evolve, and its only gotten worse, which isn’t good,” Hickey said.

While Hickey called it a step in the right direction, he believes there is more to do.

“The smaller towns are going to struggle financially to figure out a way to fund these water systems, so the federal government will have to step up,” he said.

According to the EPA, water providers will have a few years to determine whether their water is contaminated, and two years after that to install treatment systems.

In a statement, a Department of Health official told Spectrum News 1, "The New York State Department of Health is currently reviewing the details of EPA’s rulemaking to determine how it will affect New York State’s current Maximum Contaminant Limits (MCLs), notifications, and testing as we look to harmonize the state and federal requirements. All New York State public drinking water is required to meet federal and state drinking water standards. 

"Under the new federal standards, public water systems that exceed the federal MCLs will be required to comply by 2029."