ALBANY — The use of certain chemicals in fire-fighting foam will be phased out in New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law this week a bill that would mandate fire departments to gradually switch to safer, alternative foams when fighting fires.
The current foam used contains toxic PFAS chemicals, which have been linked to thread disease, decreased fertility, learning delays in children and and increased risk of cancer.
“Spills of this foam have polluted New York’s drinking water from Newburgh to Long Island,” state Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-27, said in a statement.
“This new law… is the latest example of how our new majority…. Has been able to pass legislation to protect the public health and environment.”
In his approval letter, Cuomo said he fully supports the need to reduce the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS.
However, he also indicated his approval of the bill is conditional upon an agreement he came to with the legislature on amending the bill.
“The bill… would also ban the use of all PFAS-containing firefighting agents when used to prevent or suppress fires from ignitable liquids as opposed to just flammable liquids,” Cuomo wrote. “For this type of fire there are not yet effective alternatives to PFAS.”
Because of the current lack of alternatives to fight ignitable liquid fires, Cuomo said the bill needs to be amended to allow state entities to make exceptions to the exempted use of PFAS-containing foams in those cases.
The exemption must be reevaluated every two years, and if PFAS-free foams become available, repealed.
“Today, we celebrate a victory for clean water,” Rob Hayes, clean water associate for Environmental Advocates of New York, said in a statement Monday.
“Phasing out PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam will eliminate a major source of water pollution in New York State, resulting in cleaner and healthier drinking water for all residents.”
Liz Moran, environmental policy director for New York Public Interest Research Group, applauded Cuomo for signing the bill.
“New Yorkers across the state, from those in Hoosick Falls, to Newburgh, to Seneca Lake, to Long Island, spoke out against this dangerous class of chemicals and today their voices were heard,” she said in a statement Monday. “The gift of clean water this holiday season is a precious one.”
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