It would be easy to shrug off a recent report from the New York Public Interest Research Group that found that Long Island is the state region with the most emerging contaminants in its drinking water. We’ve known that for a while, after all; what’s the big deal? But there is great value in the reminder it provides to all Long Islanders that whatever we put into the ground ends up in the aquifer that provides the water we drink and in which we bathe.
The best-known examples come from our industrial legacy — like the 24 contaminants in the awful Bethpage plume. But many of us play a role with the fertilizers and pesticides we put on our lawns and spray in our yards, and the household chemicals some of us flush down our drains and into our cesspools and septic systems. The report reinforces the need for testing. Water suppliers do that regularly; owners of private wells must be as diligent.
But testers also need standards for comparison, and the state Department of Health still has not set limits on the probable carcinogen 1,4-dioxane as well as PFOS and PFOA, substances used in firefighting foam and nonstick coatings, all of which have turned up in many public and private wells.
Limits guide and dictate when treatment is needed. But traditional filtering doesn’t work with 1,4-dioxane and new technology, not yet mass-produced, could cost up to $1 million per well. A bill sponsored by Sen. James Gaughran and approved by the State Legislature that makes it easier for water districts to sue polluters and chemical manufacturers would help the more than a dozen water districts that already have filed such suits, if Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signs it, as he should.
Let the new report be a warning: It would be far better to stop pollutants from reaching the aquifer in the first place.
— The editorial board