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)
In January 2017, 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.
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.
Although 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.
For 2021, 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.
Efforts to replace New York American Water, a private, for-profit water company serving areas of Lynbrook, Merrick and Sea Cliff, in Nassau County have run into a time crunch and worse. Unable to get a legislative fix put into the State Budget by March 31, the work as moved in other directions. Now there is a move to bring into Nassau County a county-wide water authority modeled on the Suffolk County Water Authority. The move is being pushed by State Senator James Gaughran, a former Chairman of the Board of the Suffolk County Water Authority. The legislation, S-989-A, is a thin attempt to insert SCWA into the lives of Nassau County residents. This push coincides with SCWA's own application to the Public Service Commission to take over the operation of New York American Water.
There are several laudable bills to replace NYAW with viable and reasonable water suppliers but S-989-A is not one of them and it should not be supported in any way.
New York American Water Co. (NYAW), the largest water utility in Nassau County, announced it has agreed to be sold to the Canadian conglomerate Liberty Utilities for $608 million (November 2019). New York American Water has been the topic of considerable dissatisfaction from customers regarding steep water prices that are the highest on Long Island. The company is a for-profit business and is regulated by the Public Service Commission. In a recent development, the Massapequa Water District announced in January, 2020 that it has begun the process of purchasing a part of the NYAW, known as East Massapequa. This portion of NYAW serves 5,600 customers and is adjacent to the Massapequa Water District, which is a not-for-profit water suppliers with substantially lower water prices. The Suffolk County Water Authority is also investigating the potential to take over NYAW as well. In a related matter, another part of NYAW, the Sea Cliff service area on the north shore, is also the subject of a takeover by the Jericho Water District. The Sea Cliff area serves about 4,500 customers.
According to a new report (May 2019) from the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), a comparison of all public water supplies in New York State that tested for unregulated chemicals, Long Island drinking water contained the largest number chemicals. According to the report, What's in My Water?, Long Island had the most drinking water system detections for the unregulated chemicals while New York City came out as the best drinking water. The chemical, 1,4 Dioxane, was the biggest problem for Long Island. Around the rest of the state, the most commonly detected chemicals were: strontium, hexavalent chromium (chromium-6), chlorate, chromium and vanadium. (June 2019)
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)
Predictions for the summer of 2021 are for a warmer than normal season. This will, of course, increase 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.
Old Westbury, in response to increased water demand in the upscale community in central Nassau County, has drilled new wells and has now completed a large new water storage tank. The district now has 7 wells and 2 storage tanks. The 1,300 water customers in the Village have one of the highest per capita water demands on Long Island. Reported by Christine Chung, Newsday, March 5, 2018.
Newsday investigative reporters, Paul Larocco and David M. Schwartz, uncovered the 50+ years of coverups and denials of responsibility by the US Navy and the Grumman Aerospace (today Northup-Grumman Co.) in the operation of their facilities at Bethpage, N.Y. The two-day series (February 19 and 20, 2020) described in 26 pages of detailed reporting, how this disaster was allowed to happen. The reporters, using before now, undisclosed documents, interviews, and public statements from those involved to definitively prove the intentional efforts by state officials and the two responsible parties to delay active responses to the pending disaster that the chemicals dumping into the ground would eventually create. Congratulations to Newsday and these two reporters, David Schwartz and Paul Larocco, for a true public service to uncover decades of deceit, misinformation, and secrecy. Background documents and videos are also posted by Newsday, online.