Long Island water providers will receive $48.7 million in state grants to treat several contaminants in drinking water, a move that suppliers say will not only help clean the water but lessen the costs to ratepayers of these projects.
The state grants, announced Friday, will benefit nine Island water providers addressing three "emerging contaminants" -- 1,4-dioxane, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. They are referred to as "forever chemicals" because they break down slowly in water and soil, and accumulate and persist in the human body.
"It's unbelievably welcome news," said Dennis Kelleher, chairman of the public relations committee for the Long Island Water Conference, a trade group of local water suppliers. "We've been fighting a battle to remove these contaminants for some time. This will help keep the costs down."
More than two years have passed since New York implemented limits on the three pollutants, which are the result of decades of industrial, commercial, agricultural and residential contaminants.
Long Island suppliers say that, despite the presence of these hazardous chemicals in certain wells, they are providing safe drinking water. But local advocates say these chemicals are damaging, and there is an urgency to scrub them from the drinking water.
"This funding will help prevent serious health issues," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Farmingdale. "The grants will be widely distributed on Long Island, from Hempstead to Port Washington to Southampton. It illustrates that this is a Long Island problem, not just isolated to any community."
Long Island has some 50 public water providers and all depend on water from underground aquifers. Many have been building systems to treat the contaminants. These water treatment projects mark one of the most expensive and labor-intensive infrastructure undertakings on Long Island, with total costs expected to exceed $1.5 billion, according to the water conference.
Water suppliers say they expect water bills will increase due to the work, though the state money will help lessen the impact. Current costs only include building the treatment systems; operating them also will be expensive.
The projects in the latest funding include $8.1 million to enhance treatment at two wells in the Town of Hempstead, which were so polluted with these emerging contaminants, they had to be shut down recently, according to state officials.
The Long Island funding is part of nearly $300 million in state grants for water infrastructure improvements announced Friday. Island water providers also received $250 million in similar water grants in April.
The Suffolk County Water Authority, the largest Island water provider serving 1.2 million residents, will receive a total of $5.98 million for systems to treat 1,4-dioxane in wells, as well as extend its service to Southampton, the state said.
Testing has found 1,4-dioxane — an industrial chemical in paint strippers, dyes and some deodorants and shampoos — in more than 70% of public water wells on Long Island. Long-term exposure has been linked to kidney and liver damage and cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The new funding also provides $5 million to treat a Carle Place well containing 1,4-dioxane; $6.8 million for a Jericho water well containing 1,4 dioxane and PFOA; $5 million for a Mineola well with emerging contaminants; and $6.4 million for two Plainview water plants with emerging contaminants; $5 million to treat contaminants in two Port Washington wells; and $5 million for treatment at two Westbury wells, the state said.
Plainview Water District chairman Marc Laykind said in a prepared statement: "This funding will allow us to keep investing in our treatment facilities that provide high quality drinking water to the Plainview-Old Bethpage community without the monetary burden falling on our residents' shoulders."
PFOS and PFOA — chemicals used in nonstick and stain-resistant materials and firefighting foam — have been found in hundreds of public and private wells on the Island. Exposure to PFOS or PFOA can damage the immune system, the cardiovascular system, human development and can cause cancer, the EPA said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said the grants represent the state's commitment to providing clean water.
"We are proud to support municipalities with a historic level of funding for water infrastructure improvements," she said.