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Long Island Assembly members ask New York City to keep groundwater wells closed

Nine Long Island Assembly members want New York City to reconsider plans to reopen four Queens wells that pump water from Long Island's oldest, purest aquifer.

They are asking the city to find alternatives to using the wells that pull water from the Lloyd aquifer under geographic Long Island, which includes Queens, according to a letter sent to Emily Lloyd, the city's Department of Environmental Protection commissioner.

The city plans to reopen 23 wells in Queens, including the four Lloyd wells, by 2020, to supplement its water supply while leaks are being repaired in its upstate aquifer system. Those plans were discussed at a Feb. 23 meeting between the city and Long Island stakeholders at Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's office.

Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) was joined in the letter by eight Long Island colleagues. He said he and his colleagues felt the Lloyd -- a deep, sealed aquifer with water in some areas more than 8,000 years old -- should be reserved for emergencies and for coastal communities, such as Long Beach, that have no other supply of water due to saltwater intrusion in the upper aquifers.

Groundwater is the sole source of drinking water for Long Island's nearly 3 million residents.

"New York City's proposal to reopen four wells in the Lloyd for all practical purposes treats the Lloyd as if it's just another ordinary stratum -- and it's not," Englebright said. "Any effort to treat the Lloyd as an ordinary alternate source is alarming."

DEP spokesman Christopher Gilbride said the city is reviewing the letter and added that his department looks "forward to continuing the discussion with Nassau County."

Meanwhile, Englebright said he also plans to introduce an Assembly companion to a bill state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) filed last week that would deem the city's shuttered wells abandoned since they have been inactive for more than two years.

Martins' legislation would require the state oversee a full environmental review before the permit for the wells, which expires in 2017, could be renewed.

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