Plan to rid wa­ter of tox­ins inches ahead

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ma­rina Vil­leneuve

AL­BANY, N.Y. >> New York is inch­ing closer to join­ing a hand­ful of states try­ing to make sure that pub­lic wa­ter sup­plies don’t con­tain two in­dus­trial chem­i­cals found in some non-stick pots and pans, paint strip­pers, stain re­sis­tant cloth­ing and fire­fight­ing foams.

State health of­fi­cials are set to ap­pear be­fore the state’s Drink­ing Wa­ter Qual­ity Coun­cil on Tues­day to present a plan for set­ting drink­ing wa­ter lim­its of 10 parts per tril­lion for chem­i­cals PFOA and PFOS, ac­cord­ing to Brad Hut­ton, deputy com­mis­sioner of the state’s Of­fice of Pub­lic Health.

The U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency says that PFOA and PFOS could po­ten­tially be harm­ful to the health of cer­tain peo­ple and sug­gested that drink­ing wa­ter not con­tain lev­els of more than 70 parts per tril­lion, but that limit is vol­un­tary.

New York health of­fi­cials also want a limit of 1 part per bil­lion for 1,4-diox­ane, a syn­thetic chem­i­cal found in inks, ad­he­sives and house­hold prod­ucts such as sham­poos. Ex­perts con­sider it a likely car­cino­gen and say it can eas­ily find its way into ground­wa­ter.

Gov. An­drew Cuomo’s ad­min­is­tra­tion first pro­posed the new wa­ter stan­dards last fall and the state’s health com­mis­sioner gave his OK to pro­posed lim­its in July.

What’s the hold up?

State health of­fi­cials said they’ve waded through 5,000 pub­lic com­ments on the pro­posed reg­u­la­tions. The specifics of the reg­u­la­tions are still be­ing worked out, though.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups frus­trated with the lack of an en­force­able fed­eral stan­dard say it’s up to states like New York to act swiftly.

It’s un­known just how many com­mu­ni­ties in New York are pro­vid­ing drink­ing wa­ter that would vi­o­late the pro­posed stan­dards for the three in­dus­trial chem­i­cals the state is tar­get­ing.

Pre­lim­i­nary tests sug­gest about 82 out of 1,500 drink­ing wa­ter wells on Long Is­land, mostly in Nas­sau County, have too much 1,4-diox­ane.

Mean­while, a num­ber of New York mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are deal­ing with a le­gacy of PFOS and PFOA con­tam­i­na­tion from mil­i­tary and in­dus­trial sites.

All New York wa­ter sup­pli­ers will have to check their wells once the state of­fi­cially adopts its drink­ing wa­ter stan­dards. Wa­ter sup­pli­ers say they may have to shut off their wells if the state says they’re in vi­o­la­tion.

Wa­ter dis­tricts are lob­by­ing state of­fi­cials to delay new lim­its for up to six years over con­cerns about li­a­bil­ity and costly, untested fil­tra­tion sys­tems for 1,4-diox­ane. They’re also seek­ing cleanup money from pol­lut­ing com­pa­nies, as well as the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

Many wa­ter dis­tricts are mov­ing ahead with clean-up ef­forts any­way.

Some wa­ter cus­tomers will soon feel a pinch: The Suf­folk County Wa­ter Au­thor­ity this week an­nounced it will be charg­ing cus­tomers a $20

quar­terly fee start­ing in Jan­uary to help pay for treat­ment sys­tems ex­pected to cost $177 mil­lion.

Could com­mu­ni­ties just get wa­ter else­where?

New­burgh had to switch its wa­ter sup­ply af­ter of­fi­cials in 2016 found high lev­els of PFOS in the lo­cal reser­voir due to con­tam­i­nated run-off from fire­fight­ing foam at a Na­tional Guard base. It now gets its wa­ter from the Catskill Aqueduct, which pulls its wa­ter from the Catskill Moun­tains.

Next week, the state is set to meet with res­i­dents of the vil­lage of Hoosick Falls in an on­go­ing ef­fort to ad­dress wa­ter sup­ply con­tam­i­na­tion from a plas­tics com­pany. State en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cials have sug­gested five op­tions, in­clud­ing a new ground­wa­ter source or con­nect­ing with the city of Troy’s wa­ter sys­tem.

On Long Is­land, there has been talk of build­ing in­fra­struc­ture that would al­low it to tap into the sys­tem of wa­ter tun­nels that sup­plies New York City with its drink­ing wa­ter.

Through mas­sive in­vest­ment over decades, the city has gained con­trol of big reser­voirs in the moun­tains to its north­west, pro­tected them by buy­ing up sur­round­ing land and pre­vent­ing de­vel­op­ment, and con­structed mas­sive tun­nels to de­liver the wa­ter to the city’s ur­ban core.

Open­ing up that sys­tem to Long Is­lan­ders would be costly and po­ten­tially po­lit­i­cally chal­leng­ing, but there are signs of grow­ing in­ter­est.

State Sen. Todd Kamin­sky, a Demo­crat, called on Cuomo this fall to study the idea.

A spokesman for the agency that man­ages New York City’s wa­ter sys­tem said send­ing the city’s wa­ter to Long Is­land would pose “sev­eral sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges, “in­clud­ing reser­voir ca­pac­ity. But de­mand for drink­ing wa­ter has dropped by 33% since the 1990s even as the city’s pop­u­la­tion has grown.

It could be a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive than sink­ing money into treat­ing wa­ter con­tam­i­nated with 1,4 diox­ane for decades, said Melville lawyer Nick Rigano.

“What else is in the wa­ter that we don’t know about?” said Rigano, the chair­man of the Nas­sau County Bar As­so­ci­a­tion’s en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mit­tee.

Tyrand Fuller, chair­man of an or­ga­ni­za­tion that rep­re­sents Long Is­land wa­ter of­fi­cials, said it’s up to wa­ter sup­pli­ers to con­sider all op­tions.

Adri­enne Es­pos­ito, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Long Is­land-based Ci­ti­zens Cam­paign for the En­vi­ron­ment, said city wa­ter should only sup­ple­ment Long Is­land wa­ter. She en­cour­aged bet­ter wa­ter con­ser­va­tion and man­age­ment.

“We are us­ing more wa­ter from the aquifer than the rain is able to re­place nat­u­rally each year,” she said. “It is not a sus­tain­able sys­tem.”

AP FILE PHOTO

In this 2016 photo, Michael Hickey poses near Hoosick Falls mu­nic­i­pal well 7 be­tween two baseball fields in Hoosick Falls. Hickey, a lo­cal in­sur­ance un­der­writer, ex­posed the con­tam­i­na­tion in the town.

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