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Drinking water council postpones meeting on 1,4-dioxane

State health officials on Monday postponed a meeting of the Drinking Water Quality Council where members were to expected to recommend a standard for regulating 1,4-dioxane and other emerging contaminants.

Health Department spokesman Gary Holmes said the meeting was postponed due to last-minute scheduling conflicts with two members. A new meeting date has not been set.

The state formed the council in 2017 and charged members with recommending safe drinking-water limits to the Health Commissioner. Their initial focus has been to evaluate 1,4-dioxane, a man-made compound and potential carcinogen, and compounds known as PFOA and PFOS, chemicals once present in firefighting foams that can cause developmental issues in children and other health issues.

At a meeting in February, council members discussed a limit for 1,4-dioxane of .35 parts per billion, a threshold representing a 1-in-a-million cancer risk after chronic exposure and possibly requiring an investment of an estimated $2.5 billion by water suppliers statewide to meet the standard.

Members said that was a starting point, not a final recommendation.

At .35 parts per billion an estimated 1,685 wells would require treatment — most of them on Long Island — requiring water suppliers to spend $252.7 million annually in operations and maintenance costs, in addition to the $2.5 billion in capital costs to put treatment in place, according to numbers released by the state.

Several states have set regulations, notice levels or action concentrations for 1,4-dioxane ranging from 0.3 parts per billion in Massachusetts to 77 parts per billion in Alaska, according to an EPA fact sheet.

In January 2017, Newsday reported that 1,4-dioxane, which is not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, had been detected in trace amounts throughout Long Island’s drinking water supplies at levels outpacing other parts of the country, based on a national survey required by EPA.

Locally, 71 percent of all water suppliers that detected the man-made compound had concentrations that present a 1-in-a-million cancer risk after chronic exposure. Nationally, nearly 7 percent of water suppliers with detections saw the same concentrations. Hicksville also had the highest detection in the United States, prompting the water district to take a well out of service.

The perfluorinated compounds PFOS and PFOA have also been detected on Long Island and prompted the state to name Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach and a Suffolk County fire-training center in Yaphank to the state Superfund list because of contaminated water supplies.

Homes with private wells in both areas have been or will be hooked up to Suffolk County Water Authority wells, which have treatment in place to remove the contaminants.

Depending on the threshold set by the state, installing treatment to remove perfluorinated compounds could range from $300 million to $3.2 billion in capital costs and from $17.8 million to $176 million in annual operation and maintenance costs, state officials said.

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