Clean Sweep

MAYVILLE – County legislators unanimously supported a local law banning the sale of personal care products containing microbeads during Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting.

County Legislator George Borrello, R-Irving, initiated the push for a ban and said the Lake Erie waters off Western New York are “Ground Zero” for the highest concentration of microplastic pollution. Passing the law alongside Erie County will reverse the trend sooner rather than later, he said.

“We will show not only the people of our county, but people elsewhere, the sense of urgency we feel and desire by passing this law,” Borrello said. “There are more than 8 trillion microbeads entering our waterways every day. It’s an incalculable amount of microbeads in five years. We truly have an opportunity to make a difference, and have an immediate and significant impact on our environment, public health and local businesses relying on our waterways.”

Microbeads are found in soaps, exfoliates and toothpastes. Draining down household sinks, microbeads pass through wastewater treatment plants and absorb contamination before entering into waterways. Fish end up consuming the contaminated microbeads, thus entering into the food chain.

The ban would take effect Feb. 15, 2016 to align with Erie County’s official enforcement date. County Executive Vince Horrigan said he will hold a public hearing to gauge any local opposition to the move before signing the local law.

“Pending any local significant opposition, I would expect to sign that,” Horrigan said. “Everybody’s in favor of this, so two counties passing this will give a nudge to (the state) to move this along.”

Legislation banning the sale of personal products containing microbeads passed through the Assembly during session this year. However, legislation never made it through the Senate.

Rick Winter, representative for the Personal Care Products Council, told legislators the council was in full agreement with a microbead ban. However, Winter said a statewide ban would bring meaningful change. Winter also urged legislators to pursue the manufacturing industries using microbeads as well.

Nate Drag, representative of the Alliance For The Great Lakes, and Dr. Sherri Mason, chemistry professor and environmental science program coordinator at SUNY Fredonia, were on hand to voice their support of a ban.

“We do not need microbeads. There are alternatives,” Mason said. “Do we wait to see if they have an impact, or do we ban them to be safe?”

“I applaud the Chautauqua County Legislature for being leaders in New York state by taking this important step and passing a strong ban on personal care products containing microbeads,” Drag said.

Borrello said he hopes the ban will lead other counties to consider a ban.

“This is important to us. This is not based on personal or special interest, but on what’s best for everyone,” Borrello said.