New Law Makes It Clear That Suppliers Can Sue within Three Years of Detection of a Contaminant for Costs Resulting from the Pollution in a Source of Public Water Supply
Cuomo: "Polluters need to be held responsible for their actions and with this measure we are closing an unacceptable loophole that let them skate for far too long. With this law, we will be protecting public water supplies and will help ensure that water authorities are able to recover costs they deserve, that the public health is protected, and that taxpayers are not on the hook to clean up after the actions of these bad actors."
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.3337C/A.5477C) establishing a clear standard for commencement of an action by a public water supplier once pollution is detected in a public water supply. The three-year statute of limitations for public water and wholesale water suppliers to move forward with legal action against polluters resulting from contamination in a source of water supply will now run from:
- The detection of a contaminate in the raw water of a well or plant intake sample point in excess of maximum levels set by the Department of Health or Environmental Protection Agency, or the date the contaminate is last detected in the raw water or plant intake sample point in excess of such maximum levels; or
- The last wrongful act by a polluter contributing to the presence of the contaminant.
"Polluters need to be held responsible for their actions and with this measure we are closing an unacceptable loophole that let them skate for far too long," Governor Cuomo said. "With this law, we will be protecting public water supplies and will help ensure that water authorities are able to recover costs they deserve, that the public health is protected, and that taxpayers are not on the hook to clean up after the actions of these bad actors."
Since 1986, state law has allowed litigation for damages caused by exposure to toxic substances to commence within three years of the discovery of the injury, but until now, state law regarding property damage due to the actions of polluters was opaque and allowed polluters to evade responsibility for their actions. The lack of clarity surrounding when the statute of limitations begins to run has been a barrier to recovery and has left taxpayers to fund cleanup costs.
Senator James Gaughran said, "Long Island's great resource is our sole-source aquifer and it is imperative that we protect it to ensure its vitality for generations to come. This law will equip public water entities with a desperately needed tool to hold corporate polluters accountable for contaminating our drinking water and ensure these deep-pocketed polluters, not ratepayers, pay the costs of removing contaminants like 1,4-dioxane from our drinking water. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in fighting to protect Long Island's drinking water. As former Chair of the Suffolk County Water Authority, I know all too well the financial burden borne by public water entities charged with ensuring contaminant-free drinking water while polluters get off scot-free. Safe, clean drinking water is a human right and we must treat it as such."
Assembly Member Fred Thiele said, "Access to safe drinking water should be a right, not a privilege, and no New Yorker should fear for their health when turning on their faucet. The State must be equipped with every tool and resource necessary to address New York's water quality problem. This new law will go a long way in holding polluters financially accountable for endangering our public drinking water supply with new emerging contaminants. Closing this loophole that has allowed polluters to evade responsibility was one of my top legislative priorities for the 2019 Legislative Session. I am pleased to have been a part of this important and successful effort."