TODAY'S PAPER
26° Good Morning
26° Good Morning
OpinionEditorial

Don't delay water cleanup

Traces of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid

Traces of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are among three emerging contaminants found in increasing numbers of Long Island wells. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The state Department of Health was right last year to propose tough drinking water standards for three emerging contaminants found in increasing numbers of Long Island wells. But the state is sadly wrong in proposing revisions that would give water districts up to three years to comply with the standards, and reduce the frequency with which districts must notify the public of their efforts.

The chemicals in question are 1,4-dioxane, an industrial solvent and likely carcinogen, and two substances known as PFOS, found in firefighting foam, and PFOA, used in making stain- and water-resistant material, both of which have also been linked to various cancers. Removing them from the water we drink is critical.

We understand giving water districts extra time to deal with 1,4-dioxane. Treatment is expensive — as much as $4 million per well, which the state has helped offset with millions of dollars in grants to water districts. It also is difficult — it takes at least 18 months to put a system on a well. But PFOS and PFOA are treated with carbon filters, which while pricey at $750,000 to $900,000 per well are readily available and easily installed. A delay should not be granted for those chemicals.

Similarly misguided is a proposal to require water suppliers to inform the public about cleanup efforts once a year, instead of the standard three months. Why keep the public in the dark? And the revision doesn't specify what information must be in the notices. Spell it out, and make sure it includes facts like the actual levels of contaminants found.

Clean water is our most precious natural resource. We should act vigorously to protect it. 

— The editorial board

Columns