LTE: Ban PFAS firefighting foams; prevent pollution at its root

The following letter to the editor was published in the Times Herald-Record on April 25, 2019 and was written by Rob Hayes, our Clean Water Associate.

LTE: Ban PFAS firefighting foams; prevent pollution at its root

Recently, toxic firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals spilled into Silver Stream in Newburgh. Though the floating white foam may have looked harmless, water testing revealed exceedingly dangerous levels of several PFAS chemicals, detailed in the Times Herald-Record’s “Newburgh: PFOS discovered in Silver Stream.”

State leaders must address the root of this problem: PFAS chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases are too dangerous to allow in a product that can easily seep into lakes, rivers and groundwater. New York needs a statewide ban on PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam. Without it, these chemicals will continue to pollute drinking water near airports, air bases and firehouses where foam is commonly used and stored.

That’s why Environmental Advocates of New York strongly supports S.439/A.445, a bill in the New York State Legislature to require most class-B firefighting foam be PFAS-free. It is sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblyman Phil Steck. This bill would eliminate a threat to clean water, not our ability to fight fires. PFAS-free foams are effective and widely available, and airports in cities like Copenhagen and London have already made the switch. Kentucky, Washington, Virginia and Georgia have all passed similar bans.

The gold standard of environmental protection is to prevent pollution from occurring in the first place. A ban on PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam would meet that high bar.