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Letter: DEC's first duty is public health

Newsday / J. Michael Dombroski

Newsday / J. Michael Dombroski

The letter from Joe Martens, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, appears to be focused on significant "legal and regulatory hurdles" faced by the DEC rather than the department's obligation to protect public health ["State agency guards LI drinking water," May 8].

One of the primary missions of the DEC is to protect human health and the environment. That task isn't always easy, but that does not make it less important.

It's interesting that in the commissioner's assessment of the difficulty of regulating pesticide use, he fails to mention that the department's task is slightly easier now that the primary manufacturer of atrazine has notified the department (and the Environmental Protection Agency) of its decision to prohibit its sale on Long Island.

While pointing out the benefits of the pesticides imidacloprid, atrazine and metalaxyl to the local farmers and Long Island's economy, the commissioner fails to mention the 35 wells the Suffolk County Water Authority has been forced to remove from service as a result of pesticide-related compounds, and the filtering costs for ratepayers in Suffolk County of more than $1.2 million a year, with an additional $12.8 million in capital investments.

The absence of a full analysis, including health and environmental impacts, is just one of the items missing from the DEC's strategy. In addition, after taking more than 15 years to produce a Long Island pesticide management plan, the DEC should focus more on specific actions that can be taken, rather than more assessments and studies.

Long Islanders deserve to have safe drinking water, and the DEC has an obligation to help make that happen, whether or not there are "hurdles."

Assemb. Robert K. Sweeney, Lindenhurst

Editor's note: The writer is the chairman of the State Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation.