Once again, hot temperatures are driving high water demand across Long Island, New York in 2023. Following a hot and dry year in 2022, some water supply wells are reaching dramatic low levels during this summer. The hot temperatures and low rain fall increased the demand for water for irrigation. To counter the increase in irrigation, think about transitioning lawns to grass varieties that are drought resistant such as Tall Fescues. Even better, join the Long Island Rewilding group. Nearing the end of the summer, predictions for a hot summer have proven to be correct. 9-6-2022
In the summer of 2023, the newly created South Shore Water Authority in Nassau County began meeting. This is a major step toward providing safe and affordable water to residents of the south shore. The fight over stopping a water rate increase imposed by Liberty Water is now at the forefront of efforts to control the price of water for this area. 9 - 2023.
Since 2016, the NYS DEC has required public water suppliers to meet a 15% reduction in summer water demand by 2021. The efforts to bring down water demand are lagging years behind schedule. Few, if any, public water suppliers have reached the goal. What is needed is a new understanding and approach to water conservation. Irrigation is the single biggest use of water in the summer, when water use increasing by as much as 400%. As long as residents continue to plant and design their lawns and yards with water-guzzling plants and grasses, not much will change.
In 2023, the message that residents can choose a new approach for plantings for yards and gardens is finally gaining momentum. Let's change the grasses we plant to Tall Fescue and use smart irrigation controllers on automatic irrigation systems to avoid watering when it is not necessary. Be a water saver rather than a water waster.
The Port Washington Water District again is a leader in showing how their customers can save money and water. They promote installation of smart irrigation controllers and give rebates to defray the cost. They also report quarterly to their customers how they are doing in meeting the new drinking water standards for PFOA, PFOA and 1,4 dioxane.
The Port Washington Water District is to be commended on their efforts to bring water use issues to their customers and to help reduce water waste and over consumption. update April, 2021.
In a new series started September 2, 2023, the NY Times reported how communities across the US are pumping their local aquifers beyond the level of sustainability. Significant changes in groundwater resources are documented from California to Long Island, NY. Saltwater intrusion is creating water supply risk for coastal communities in Nassau, Queens and parts of east-end Suffolk Counties. Still, there is no leadership from the DEC to tell residents that extravagant and wasteful water use is unwise and irresponsible. The national implications of over-pumping groundwater is that food production will be diminished as available groundwater disappears. September, 2023.
In January 2016, the New York State DEC asked all water suppliers on Long Island to develop updated water conservation plans designed to reduce summer water pumpage by 15%. The voluntary program will track performance for several years to assess how effective the conservation measures are. Reduced pumpage is especially important for water systems in Nassau County where the impacts of over-pumping are being seen in the spread of contamination plumes and saltwater intrusion along the shoreline portions of the aquifer system.
Each year, public water suppliers on Long Island must publish the top 10 water consumers in their service areas. The top 5 water users in Suffolk County for 2022, were all on the South Fork (mainly the Hamptons). They were not businesses or industries but individuals. They used from 14.3 million gallons (#1) to 7.5 million gallons (#5) in one year - mainly in the summer. Because the individuals involved are the ultra-wealthy, the cost of so much water was is not a factor in keeping water use down. The issue is, does anyone have a right to as much water as they want as long as they can pay for it? Currently, the answer is, Yes. August 7, 2023.
Recent reporting (March 2019) illustrates a classic example of sacrificing groundwater protection to profit and greed. Two examples show how state oversight of the natural resources slips through the cracks in environmental laws until the damage has been done.
FISH FARM EXAMPLE: A proposed fish farming business in Yaphank, New York (Town of Brookhaven) has claimed a plan to raise fish such as sturgeon, striped bass and vegetables such as salad greens. However, their main activity so far has been to illegally excavate millions of yards of sand according to the NYS DEC. One of the points of controversy is whether the business mined land outside of their property boundaries. The other is that the business had no sand mining permit from the NYS DEC. The activities by BlueGreen Farms date back to 2010. Recently, the NYS DEC has fined the company $1.3 million for its activities.
SAND LAND: This large sand mining operation in Noyac in Southampton Township has been the focus of extensive public condemnation due to its impact on local groundwater. Suffolk County has reported that the sand mining operation has negatively impacted groundwater for more than 8 years. Elevated levels of manganese and iron in groundwater are related to composting and mulching activities at the mining site. In September 2018, NYS DEC denied an application to renew the Sand Land mining permit which was set to expire in November 2018. This decision was met with widespread applause. Then, at the end of March 2019, the NYS DEC announced it had reached an agreement with Sand Land to allow continued sand mining for another 8 years and to dig an additional 40 feet deeper into the aquifer and groundwater.
In response to this news, the Town of Southampton, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, and community organizations filed a petition (April 2019) in NYS Supreme Court to overturn the DEC decision. In addition, Assemb. Thiele has sponsored legislation that would give local government a role in authorizing sand mining and setting rules for mining. The legislation passed the State Assembly in 2018. It still needs to be passed in the NYS Senate. (Reported by Vera Chinese, Newsday, March 29 and April 19, 2019.)
UPDATE: On Friday, May 31, 2019 a state Supreme Court Judge issued a preliminary injunction preventing Sand Land from taking actions to expand the size of the site, as the permit had allowed, pending a full presentation of the case. (Reported by David Schwartz, Newsday, June 4, 2019)
New York State DWQC met in December 2018 and recommended to the State Health Department drinking water standards (also known as MCLs = maximum contaminant levels) for three contaminants of concerns. For 1,4 Dioxane, it recommended an MCL of 1 part per billion. It also recommended an MCL of 10 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA. The PFOS/PFOA MCLs will become the strongest drinking water standards in the nation if they are implemented as recommended. The State Health department also noted that it could also set a collective standard for a group of PFCs along with the individual MCLs recommended by the DWQC. (Reported by David Schwartz, Newsday, Dec. 19, 2018)
The NYS DEC released the long-awaited revised cleanup plan for the Navy-Grumman groundwater plume and contaminated sites in Bethpage, N.Y. (May 2019) The revised plan was contained in a report known as an Amended Record of Decisions or AROD. The AROD presents 7 options for remediating the multiple plumes and keeping the contaminated groundwater from moving further south toward the coastline of Nassau County. Public comments are being accepted by the NYS DEC until July 7, 2019. The remediation price tags are estimated to cost between $332 and $748 million over a 30 year period. The preferred plan will cost around $585 millioin. Approximately 17.5 million gallons of groundwater per day would be removed and treated under the various plans. Full cleanup is expected to take 110 years. (May 2019)
After reviewing public comments, the NYS DEC adopted the revised plan in late December 2019 without any significant changes. Both the Navy and Northrup Grumman objected to the plan. The path is now open for New York State to begin a comprehensive cleanup of the plume.
New York American Water Co. (NYAW), the largest water utility in Nassau County, announced it had agreed to be sold to the Canadian conglomerate Liberty Utilities for $608 million (November 2019). By June, 2021, the picture for New York American Water changed significantly. The State Legislature passed two bills that established a North Shore Water Authority and a South Shore Water Authority that would each takeover portions of the New York American water service areas in Nassau County. The Massapequa Water District will likely also take over the eastern-most portion of NYAW water in Nassau. Both bills are awaiting signature by the governor who is now Governor Kathy Hochul. Updated: 9-1-2021.
The Governor of New York in December 2020 vetoed legislation that allowed local municipalities to set local land use rules that affected sand mining activities among other things. When the veto was issued, the Governor directed the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health to conduct a 3-year study on the impact that sand mining has on groundwater quality. In early July, 2021 the DEC hosted a public meeting to discuss the plans for the study, that is to begin in September 2021. No details about the study were released by the DEC in advance, so the public attendees were limited in what they could comment on. A key issue that was not directly addressed by the DEC is its willingness to allow sand mining operations to excavate sand from deep within the aquifers, exposing groundwater to a wide range of potential pollutants. Since the veto, the a decision in the case of Southampton vs. the DEC was rendered, allowing local ordinances to jointly have jurisdiction on activities on land use and sand mining (May 27, 2021). Updated: July 17, 2021
With regard to the Sand Land permit being litigated: On August 23, 2021 a panel of Appellate court judges rejected the NYS DEC's request to stay the recent ruling annulling the Sand Land mine's permit, according to Newsday (August 26, 2021). The judges overturned a September 2020 ruling that determined the permit was valid, but the Town of Southampton appealed. In the decision entered on August 23, the judges found that the DEC disregarded Southampton's zoning law prohibiting new mining when it issued the newest Sand Land mining permit. Assemblyman Fred Thiele stated that, ... Instead of wasting time and money on continued litigation, the more prudent course of action would be to enforce the law, protect water quality and the environment, and close the mine." Updated: September 1, 2021.
In the 2022 legislative season, Assemblyman Fred Thiele introduced legislation that would prohibit all sand mining permits to stop mining at a depth of no more less than 10 above the water table. The practice of exposing the water table and excavating deep into the aquifers would end under this new legislation.