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Source: Ithaca Journal

Tompkins lawmakers ban microbeads

BY ANDREW CASLER

Posted: November 23, 2015
Originally Published: November 18, 2015

The tiny beads found in some face wash, shampoos and toothpastes were banned in Tompkins County on Tuesday night.

Eight people voiced support for the ban during a public hearing before the law passed.

Speakers included representatives of Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Plastic Tides program, junior interns who did research and collected pollution samples this summer, Ithaca Town Supervisor Herb Engman and former County Legislator Frank Proto, chairman of the County Water Resources Council.

Engman said that local waste water treatment plants can't keep microbeads out of Cayuga Lake, but Bolton Point Municipal Water System captures the beads before they enter drinking water.

"That doesn't solve the problem of the beads being in the lake and being bio-accumulated of other materials," he said.

County Legislators approved the microbead ban with a unanimous vote. The ban goes into effect six months after its filed with the Secretary of State.

The law installs a maximum $2,500 daily fine for any person, firm, corporation, or other entity who violates the ban. A second violation would come with a $5,000 daily fine, according to the law.

In May 2014, state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released a report that found New York residents wash 19 tons of microbeads down their drains annually.

Each year, Tompkins County residents wash 196 pounds of microbeads down their drains. In Broome County it’s 381 pounds and 170 pounds for Chemung County according to the attorney general’s office.

Microbeads attract and accumulate toxic chemicals found commonly in water across the state, and they can be mistaken as food by small fish and wildlife. When wildlife species eat contaminated plastics, toxic chemicals can be passed to birds and fish that are higher on the food chain, and eventually to animals that people eat, a news release from the Attorney General's office said

The six-month lead time on the ban being enforced will allow for retailer and public education and give shops time to remove microbead products from their shelves.

Jim Dennis, D-Ulysses, proposed delaying the ban's implementation to one year, which failed by a 6-8 margin.

Dennis and legislators Mike Sigler, R-Lansing; Dave McKenna, R-Enfield and Newfield; Dan Klein, D-Danby; Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, D-Ithaca; and Legislature Chairman Mike Lane, D-Dryden; voted in favor of the failed amendment.