To make a point about the condition of the tap water in Elmont, Tudor Manor Civic Association president Joyce Stowe displayed a plastic bottle filled with murky brown water - taken from her faucet in January.
"This is the water that came out of my tap," she said, holding up the bottle as gasps rose from dozens of people in the audience at a public hearing Monday at Elmont Public Library. State Sen. Craig Johnson held the hearing to address resident concerns about the sporadic appearance of discolored tap water in Elmont, Franklin Square and North Valley Stream.
The water may look dirty - a probable result of iron residue from the water source and the area pipes - but it was perfectly safe, said the director of Water Supply Operations for Nassau County's Department of Health at the hearing.
"The drinking water in Elmont meets all drinking water requirements and standards, state and federal," said Robert Girillo. "What we have here is rusty water . . . it does not pose a health hazard."
"Rusty water's been a problem around Nassau County for many years. It's naturally occurring," Girillo said, and later added, "When you see brown water, it's surprising but iron is not considered a health hazard."
The leaders of three local civic groups asked for solutions from the Water Authority of Western Nassau County, the utility that supplies the tap water.
"I haven't had a glass of water out of my sink for 30 years," said Patrick Nicolosi, president of the Elmont East End Civic Association.
Mimi Pierre-Johnson, president of the Alden Manor Civic Association, mentioned the discolored water appears from time to time. "Every time I open the faucet, it's a gamble," she said.
Robert Swartz, chief engineer of the water authority, said the source of the contamination in the raw water supply was unknown.
"We have no idea where the contamination is coming from," he said. Still, Swartz said, the water that's delivered to customers is thoroughly cleaned by the authority's water treatment facilities.
The water authority has temporary iron filtration facilities set up and will build permanent facilities to clean the water, Swartz said.
A spokesman for the state Department of Health said there was no danger in drinking the tap water.
"We are aware of the concerns about iron in the drinking water, but it does not pose an immediate health risk. Nassau County is taking appropriate measure to make sure their drinking water is safe," said DOH spokesman Jeffrey Hammond.