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Legislature Approves Microbeads Law

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Legislature Approves Microbeads Law

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Legislature, by unanimous vote, has adopted a new Local Law that will prohibit the sale in Tompkins County of personal care products containing microbeads. “Microbeads” are synthetic, plastic particles added to personal care products, such as facial cleansers, shampoos, and toothpastes. The new law notes that microbeads, which enter bodies of water through disposal down household drains following the use of such personal cosmetic products and collect harmful pollutants already present in the environment, pose a serious threat to Tompkins County’s environment.

At the public hearing preceding Legislature consideration, eight people spoke, including representatives of Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Plastic Tides program, including junior interns who did research and collected samples this summer, finding microbeads locally in both Cayuga and Beebe Lakes. Among those speaking about the dangers and urging passage of the law were Ithaca Town Supervisor Herb Engman and former long-time County Legislator Frank Proto, chairman of the County Water Resources Council. Engman, who sits on the governing board of the Ithaca Area Waste Water Treatment Facility, said our filtration systems cannot keep microbeads out of Cayuga Lake.

The law will take effect 180 days after its filing with the Secretary of State—the long lead time to enable public and retailer awareness of the provisions and to permit the adjustment of store inventories to comply without undue hardship. Legislator Jim Dennis proposed delay in implementation from the six months to one year, which ultimately failed by a 6-8 margin (Legislators Mike Sigler, Dave McKenna, Dan Klein, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, and Chair Mike Lane joining Mr. Dennis voting in favor.) Dennis said that, while the measure is good legislation and is needed, there is very little awareness now among the public and retailers, which needs to happen. Legislator Kiefer reported that the education committee of the Water Resources Council has offered to take the lead in an outreach campaign.

Enforcement will come through the Department of Weights and Measures, which it was noted will be able to use discretion in working with store owners, the majority of Legislators ultimately concluding that the six-month implementation delay is sufficient. The Local Law will become null and voice, if statewide or federal legislation goes into effect to supersede it.