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New state task force to focus on water quality problems

Assemb. Michael LiPetri, co-chair of the Assembly Minority

Assemb. Michael LiPetri, co-chair of the Assembly Minority Task Force on Water Quality, said on Wednesday that the task force would hold about a half-dozen hearings around the state over the next few months. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Islanders can sound off on water quality problems at hearings by a new state task force aimed at brainstorming solutions and uncovering issues that may have gone unnoticed.

State lawmakers who announced the task force on Wednesday acknowledged that Long Islanders have a lot of issues to talk about: from the toxic water plume in Bethpage to harmful algal blooms in Island waters, from aging water pipes to the emergence of new chemical pollutants.

"Let me be clear, we are at a tipping point: This is a life-threatening issue we face now, and one that will affect our children and our grandchildren," said Assemb. Mike LiPetri (R-Massapequa) at a news conference at the Massapequa Preserve. "The time to act is now, and act we shall. We shall see that our future generations will not face the burden of suffering when it becomes too late."

LiPetri, co-chair of the Assembly Minority Task Force on Water Quality, said it would hold about a half-dozen hearings around the state over the next few months, bringing together public officials, industry experts, advocates and the public. The task force, which will hold a hearing in Nassau and another in Suffolk, will issue a report with conclusions and suggestions, he said.

"The purpose is to go in the backyards of people and learn the issues, the life-threatening issues, that they are facing," he said.

The Republican lawmakers who announced the task force were joined by several environmental advocates, all of whom spoke of the need for the state to come together to resolve these issues.

"Even in this day and age when we are very divisive in our political thinking, we are united in our need and our desire for clean water," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Providing safe drinking water to Long Islanders is becoming increasingly difficult due to the variety of mounting issues, said Ty Fuller, chairman of the Long Island Water Conference.

For Long Island, the urgency is even greater in that residents receive water from aquifers right under their feet, Fuller said.

"While this is unbelievably convenient, it also means that whatever pollution we create on the surface can find its way into our source of water," he said.

Assemb. Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) said that he had seen new pollution threats emerge in the 17 years that he has represented his voting district.

"The damage we've seen in my time in office, and the new chemicals coming out … are very scary," Raia said.

"Some would say it's too late," Raia added, "but it's actually not too late because we need to be a little more proactive and foster the right working relationships."

Dates for the Island hearings will be announced shortly, officials said.

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