The COVID-19 pandemic threw a lot of New Yorkers into financial instability and left them unable to pay past dues on their utility bills, including their water bills. Now, consumer, environmental and legal aid advocates are calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign legislation that would require data to understand the full extent of the problem.
Rob Hayes, director of Clean Water at Environmental Advocates NY, told Capital Tonight that the $70 million allocated to New York in federal COVID-19 assistance isn’t enough to reach everyone with a need.
The bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. Kevin Parker and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, passed before the end of session in June and would require the Department of Public Service to assemble a report on the effect the pandemic had on utilities and the affordability of services. Hayes said advocates will be back in Albany next year to get state resources to help New Yorkers struggling to pay their water and utility bills.
On a different front, the Environmental Protection Agency released nonbinding guidelines for drinking water contaminants, including PFOA and PFOS. According to the new guidelines, limits for PFOS are set at .02 parts per trillion and PFOA is set at .004 parts per trillion. The 2020 New York state drinking water standards set the standard for those chemicals at 10 parts per trillion. Hayes said they are calling on Hochul and the Department of Health to update New York’s standards to at least the EPA levels or lower.