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Letter: DEC guards LI drinking water

Newsday / J. Michael Dombroski

Newsday / J. Michael Dombroski

The Draft Long Island Pesticide Pollution Prevention Strategy arms the Department of Environmental Conservation with an important tool in its effort to protect Long Island's groundwater from possible contamination, while ensuring that critical pest management needs of farms, residents and businesses are met.

The strategy would assess many active ingredients in pesticides, evaluate alternatives and potential pollution prevention measures, collaborate with stakeholders to implement those measures, and monitor and modify the strategy, if necessary. Pollution prevention could include using effective, less-toxic products, and modifying application rates or other pest management processes.

An op-ed from the Citizens Campaign for Environment ["State is failing to protect our aquifer," Opinion, April 3] fails to comprehend the legal, public health and scientific basis for DEC's highly effective pesticide registration program.

The op-ed erroneously claimed that there are 117 pesticides in Long Island drinking water. Many of the samples were taken from wells not used for drinking water, between 1996 and 2010. Half of those detections were from "legacy" compounds, which are no longer registered for use on Long Island. In the vast majority of cases, the levels of contamination were slightly above the detection limit and are far below the drinking water standards.

The Citizens Campaign would have DEC ban all pesticides containing any of three ingredients, even though they are found in extremely low concentrations, ignoring the science and input of farmers, vintners and others who rely on pesticides for businesses that are vital to the local and state economies. In addition, the legal and regulatory hurdles to canceling the registration of these pesticides would be significant.

DEC's proposed strategy will actually result in more rapid adoption of alternative pest management practices or more environmentally benign products than Citizens Campaign's approach, which we believe would lead to protracted and time-consuming litigation.

DEC is reviewing the comments on the strategy received during the 90-day public comment period that ended April 30.

Joe Martens, Albany

Editor's note: The writer is the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

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