Concerns are rising over New York City’s plan to request renewed permits for dozens of Queens wells that tap the same aquifers that are the sole source of drinking water for 3 million Long Islanders.
The city must apply for renewal to the state Department of Environmental Conservation by the end of November. The wells currently are idle — the city gets most of its water from upstate — but there are plenty of reasons for concern on Long Island.
The city has said it would use the wells only in drought, but a drought would hit the region, so that’s when the aquifers would be most stressed on Long Island, too. And no one knows the effects of extra pumping. Would it lead to more saltwater intrusion? Would it speed up and/or shift the flow of underground toxic plumes? The U.S. Geological Survey is doing a $6 million study of the aquifers, including the parts under Queens; the DEC needs that data to make an informed decision.
Just because the city once used the wells doesn’t mean it’s OK to use them now. The city has other options for water; Long Island does not. The DEC should wait for the data, but if they suggest that reopening the wells would harm the Island, the agency should not renew the city’s permits.