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South Huntington water customers to pay surcharge for cleanup of toxic chemical

The South Huntington Water District in Huntington Station

The South Huntington Water District in Huntington Station on Jan. 21, 2021. Credit: Barry Sloan

South Huntington Water District customers have been notified they will be billed a $25 quarterly surcharge to pay for infrastructure improvements to remove 1,4-dioxane from the district’s systems.

A letter went out earlier this month explains that the surcharge was necessary to address recent New York State drinking water regulations requiring all public water suppliers to test for and treat the chemical. It is classified as a likely carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The letter said the district must raise about $30 million to procure, install and operate the new treatment systems. The district has received $3.6 million in state grants to help pay for the systems, according to the letter.

The district is also suing the companies responsible for the development and dissemination of 1,4-dioxane.

"The money is only to be used, lock-boxed, for 1,4-dioxane mitigation," District Commissioner Paul Tonna, said. "It’s a state standard, we didn’t set the standard, we tried to figure out the least onerous way in mitigating 1,4-dioxane for our residents."

Paul Sabatini, a former chief deputy Suffolk County executive who owns a building in the water district, said the increase will have a major impact on residents, many of whom are facing financial consequences because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They are making it a flat fee which is really regressive because it’s not proportional to actual usage," he said. "It’s going to be a flat fee no matter what your baseline charges are."

Suffolk County Water Authority Chief Executive Jeffrey Szabo said across Long Island the removal of 1,4-dioxane is likely to cost over a billion dollars in the long term.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2020 Suffolk County Water Authority began charging its customers $80 a year to address the issue, a fee that customers will continue to see over the next 5 or 6 years, officials said. The authority estimates it will cost $177 million to update its systems to address 1,4-dioxane.

"We need, based on the latest lab data, 56 Advanced Oxidation systems at different well fields to remove 1,4-dioxane," he said. "That's almost $200 million dollars is an initial capital cost; we suspect it will cost much more than that for ongoing long term operating cost."

In Nassau County Lee Mueller, External Affairs Manager for New York American Water, which serves about 120,000 customers across that county, said it currently only its Seamans Neck Road facility in North Wantagh is impacted by the state’s regulation of 1,4-dioxane.

He said the utility will construct an Advanced Oxidation Process system to remove 1,4-dioxane at the facility.

"New York American Water will be submitting a claim to the Navy that seeks recovery of construction and operation of AOP treatment at this facility to protect the financial interest of our customers," Mueller said. "In addition, we have ongoing litigation against the manufacturers of these chemicals."

New York American Water maintains a partnership with the U.S. Navy for the Seamans Neck Road facility because the source water is impacted by the Grumman plume.

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