Hazardous “forever chemicals” linked to cancers and other health problems will be removed from Hicksville's water supply, officials said Monday as they broke ground on a new $9 million treatment system. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp; File Footage

Hazardous “forever chemicals” linked to cancers, developmental damage and other health problems will be removed from Hicksville's water supply, federal, state and local officials said Monday as they broke ground on a new $9 million treatment system.

The project, one of several ongoing or expected to start across Long Island, is funded, in part, by $5 million in grants from the Biden administration's $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The remaining $4 million to complete the project, which will remove a host of toxic chemicals from Hicksville Water District's Plant 6, will be borne by taxpayers, officials said. 

Despite the federal investment, Hicksville's 48,000 ratepayers could still see their water bills jump by 25% to 50% because of work to remove thousands of synthetic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl, or PFAS, from the hamlet's wells.

“Our residents are not responsible for the contamination and should not bear the significant financial impact for wellhead treatment,” Hicksville Water District Chairman Karl Schweitzer said at the groundbreaking. “The contaminants that are impacting 12 of 14 supply wells are a result of legacy industrial and commercial activities and remain what we call 'the sins of our past.' ”

The district, Schweitzer said, has spent $49 million for treatment measures at Hicksville wells and expects to invest more than $70 million in total to comply with new regulations on emergent contaminants.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would require utilities to impose strict levels on PFAS, which are found in Long Island's groundwater and can be detected in the blood of nearly everyone living in the United States. The move will reduce exposure for 100 million people nationwide, officials said.

Removing PFAS, a chemical commonly found in products ranging from nonstick cookware to cellphones and medical supplies, requires the construction of costly filtration and treatment systems.

“We hope there will be more funding coming because these projects are needed,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa Garcia. 

Rep. Tom Suozzi, (D-Glen Cove), whose district includes Hicksville, said the new federal standards will ensure the region's sole-source aquifer is safe to drink — a challenge after years of industrial development that allowed chemicals to leach into groundwater.

“It's going to take a lot of money to try and improve these facilities,” Suozzi said. “Our job is to try and move beyond all these battles back and forth between Democrats and Republicans to work together to try and get that money back here on Long Island.”

In total, $2 million for the Hicksville project comes from the EPA while $3 million tracks to a state grant, also funded by the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Since 2017, the Environmental Facilities Corporation, the state's water infrastructure bank, has provided the Hicksville Water District with $36 million in grants, said Máire Cunningham, the agency's director of program management.

“This financial assistance is projected to save local ratepayers a total $57 million in costs that the water district would have incurred if it had financed these projects on their own,” Cunningham said.

Another source of potential funding for the groundwater projects, officials said, is ongoing litigation against manufacturers of products that used PFAS.

In 2020, the state set its own limits — less stringent than those implemented by the EPA — on PFOS and PFOA, two of the most common forever chemicals. Most Long Island water providers already have equipment in place to meet those limits, officials said.

Exposure to PFAS, which has been voluntarily phased out by most U.S. manufacturers, has been linked to deadly cancers, impacts to the liver and heart, and immune and developmental damage to infants and children, according to the EPA.


 

Hazardous “forever chemicals” linked to cancers, developmental damage and other health problems will be removed from Hicksville's water supply, federal, state and local officials said Monday as they broke ground on a new $9 million treatment system.

The project, one of several ongoing or expected to start across Long Island, is funded, in part, by $5 million in grants from the Biden administration's $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The remaining $4 million to complete the project, which will remove a host of toxic chemicals from Hicksville Water District's Plant 6, will be borne by taxpayers, officials said. 

Despite the federal investment, Hicksville's 48,000 ratepayers could still see their water bills jump by 25% to 50% because of work to remove thousands of synthetic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl, or PFAS, from the hamlet's wells.

“Our residents are not responsible for the contamination and should not bear the significant financial impact for wellhead treatment,” Hicksville Water District Chairman Karl Schweitzer said at the groundbreaking. “The contaminants that are impacting 12 of 14 supply wells are a result of legacy industrial and commercial activities and remain what we call 'the sins of our past.' ”

The district, Schweitzer said, has spent $49 million for treatment measures at Hicksville wells and expects to invest more than $70 million in total to comply with new regulations on emergent contaminants.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would require utilities to impose strict levels on PFAS, which are found in Long Island's groundwater and can be detected in the blood of nearly everyone living in the United States. The move will reduce exposure for 100 million people nationwide, officials said.

Removing PFAS, a chemical commonly found in products ranging from nonstick cookware to cellphones and medical supplies, requires the construction of costly filtration and treatment systems.

“We hope there will be more funding coming because these projects are needed,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa Garcia. 

Rep. Tom Suozzi, (D-Glen Cove), whose district includes Hicksville, said the new federal standards will ensure the region's sole-source aquifer is safe to drink — a challenge after years of industrial development that allowed chemicals to leach into groundwater.

“It's going to take a lot of money to try and improve these facilities,” Suozzi said. “Our job is to try and move beyond all these battles back and forth between Democrats and Republicans to work together to try and get that money back here on Long Island.”

In total, $2 million for the Hicksville project comes from the EPA while $3 million tracks to a state grant, also funded by the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Since 2017, the Environmental Facilities Corporation, the state's water infrastructure bank, has provided the Hicksville Water District with $36 million in grants, said Máire Cunningham, the agency's director of program management.

“This financial assistance is projected to save local ratepayers a total $57 million in costs that the water district would have incurred if it had financed these projects on their own,” Cunningham said.

Another source of potential funding for the groundwater projects, officials said, is ongoing litigation against manufacturers of products that used PFAS.

In 2020, the state set its own limits — less stringent than those implemented by the EPA — on PFOS and PFOA, two of the most common forever chemicals. Most Long Island water providers already have equipment in place to meet those limits, officials said.

Exposure to PFAS, which has been voluntarily phased out by most U.S. manufacturers, has been linked to deadly cancers, impacts to the liver and heart, and immune and developmental damage to infants and children, according to the EPA.


 

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