LI congress reps push for better water standards


Local and federal elected officials joined Long Island environmental advocates on June 18 to ask that the Environmental Protection Agency set stricter standards for the maximum contamination levels and remediation of 1,4 dioxane and other emerging contaminants.

U.S. Congress Representative Kathleen Rice — along with her colleagues Peter King, Tom Souzzi and Lee Zeldin — said they were concerned by a recent report from the New York Public Interest Research Group, which concluded that Long Island’s drinking water had the highest traces of 1,4 dioxane in all of New York State. The congress representatives had sent a letter to the EPA about setting new standards in early June, but Rice said they have yet to hear back about this “critical issue”

“We need the EPA to act with urgency to provide financial and technological support so that Long Island’s water systems can better address these emerging contaminants.”

Adrianne Esposito, director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, explained that 1,4 dioxane, which can be found in household cleaning products, has been linked to several cancers and liver damage. Although the EPA lists 1,4 dioxane as a “likely carcinogen” and recommends no more than a .35 parts per billion presence in water supplies, it leaves each state to set contamination standards for the chemical.

While New York sets it at 5 parts per billion, Esposito said the Town of Hempstead Water Department sees the chemical appearing at 10 parts per billion, and at 12 parts per billion in the Western Nassau County Water Authority’s district. “Long Island is in a drinking water crisis…and we need the EPA’s support to fund local remediation efforts.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that the state set aside $200 million to go toward such regulations, with a $3 million cap on individual water districts. But local water providers had previously estimated adequate water treatment systems for 1.4 dioxane and other emerging contaminants to cost more than $800 million.

Last week, Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin joined with Councilman Tom Muscarella to demand an increase in state funding to curb the cost of potential water treatment regulations.

Clavin called the $3 million a “drop in the bucket” and said it could shift the financial burden onto ratepayers or force water district’s to not comply with the new regulations by the January 2021 deadline and, therefore, have their wells shut down. “Unfunded, quick mandates will cost this township hardship,” he said.

In addition to asking for full funding of these projects, Clavin, Muscarella, Assemblyman Ed Ra and representatives from local water districts asked that the state phase-in regulations and extend the deadline to allow more time for water districts to abide by regulations and protect taxpayers from having the costs deferred to them.

“Otherwise, water districts are forced to scramble for revenue sources with little guidance from the regulators imposing the standards,” Clavin said.

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said that additional funds to treat 1,4 dioxane in the town was included in this year’s budget plan. She agreed that action from the EPA and New York State would benefit the treatment and upkeep of all the 32 wells and 17 water treatment sites in the Town of Hempstead and prevent possible future health problems for local residents.

“Our residents have the expectation that when they turn on their tap water, it’ll be clean and safe to drink,” Gillen said. “Everyday that we don’t take action is another day lost treating our water.”

As of the time of press, the Environmental Protection Agency did not reply to the Herald’s request for a response.