State and County Health Departments Issue "DO NOT DRINK" Water Advisories for Two Westchester County Schools

New York State Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation Launch Investigation to Identify Potential Sources of Contamination

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 17, 2021) - The New York State Department of Health, in coordination with the Westchester County Health Department, today recommended "Do Not Drink" advisories for the Pequenakonck Elementary School in North Salem, New York and Meadow Pond Elementary in South Salem, New York.The advisories, issued out of an abundance of caution, direct the school communities to stop using water for drinking, cooking and food preparation.Bottled water is being provided by both schools and theState stands ready to assist the schools and the county where needed.Water continues to be acceptable for uses such ashandwashingand various cleaning activities including washing dishes.

The "Do Not Drink" advisories were issued following the very recent discovery of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in the schools' water systems at levels above New York's recently adopted,and highly protective,Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) of 10 parts per trillion, each, for PFOA and PFOS.The standards require water systems of all sizes to test for these previously unregulated contaminants, notify consumers if the results exceed the standards, and take the appropriate actions to bring the water systems back into compliance.

The affected school districts are working closely with Westchester County Health Department and New York State agencies to collect additional samples and discuss long-term solutions to improve water quality. Additionally, the State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health (DOH) are working to identify and address potential sources of contamination.

New York State agencies are also working with Westchester County and school administrators to provide additional information, answer questions, and conduct outreach to these school communities to ensure school families are notified.

Potential Health Effects of PFOA and PFOS

PFOA and PFOS are part of a group of man-made, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances found in a wide range of consumer products such as cookware, cleaning products, food packaging, stain repellants, and firefighting foam, among others.The available information on the health effects associated with PFOA and PFOS, like many chemicals, comes mostly fromstudies of high-level exposure in animals. Less is known about the chances of health effects occurring from lower levels of exposure, such as from drinking the schools' water.As a result, finding lower levels of chemicals in drinking water prompts water suppliers and regulators to take precautions that include notifying consumers and taking steps to reduce exposure.

High dose studies in animals indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause a wide range of health effects with the most consistent findings being effects on the liver and immune system and impaired fetal growth and development. The United States Environmental Protection Agency considers PFOA and PFOS as having suggestive evidence for causing cancer based on studies of animals exposed to high levels of this chemical over their lifetimes. The NYS MCLs for these chemicals are highly protective against these health effects, but at levels well above the MCLs it is prudent to take interim "Do Not Drink" measures to reduce exposure at these schools.

In February 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo created a Water Quality Rapid Response Team, led by DEC and DOH, to quickly investigate water contamination reports across New York and take corrective action to address these contamination issues.This Water Quality Rapid Response Team has taken unprecedented action to investigate and clean up PFAS contamination and to ensure New Yorkers have access to clean water.To support this effort, DEC works with DOH and numerous entities, including local health departments, drinking water providers and authorities, and federal, state, county, and municipal governments toprotect and clean upgroundwater.

Additional Resources

The school community will be informed on progress to reduce the PFOA and PFOS levels and when the water is deemed acceptable for all uses.

General information on PFAS can also be found at: