This week, the state attorney general announced that New York along with more than 20 other states reached an updated $12.5 billion settlement with the company 3M for their role in contaminating drinking water sources with a “forever chemical” known as PFAS.

Rob Hayes, director of clean water for Environmental Advocates NY, told Capital Tonight that “so many drinking water sources in New York and across the country are contaminated by these chemicals and are putting New Yorker’s health at risk when they put on the tap.”

Per and polyfluoroalkyl, or PFAS substances, are known as “forever chemicals” because they break down very slowly in the environment and can build up in the body and cause health issues like cancer. PFAS chemicals are found in consumer and industrial products including firefighting foam used on military bases. Because of their use by companies like 3M, Hayes argues that we are “dealing with a legacy of contamination.”

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency issued drinking water standard proposals which said there is no safe level of PFAS and proposed a cleanup standard of 4 parts per trillion, which is lower than New York state’s standard of 10 ppt. Hayes says the EPA proposal is “incredibly health protective” but are just proposals and not firmed up yet.

Hayes said he’d like to see a more proactive stance on these water issues and that after two years in office, there has been some progress during the Hochul administration but it has been “slower” than what advocates were hoping for.