The New York State Health Department has recommended new drinking water standards that will improve drinking water quality on Long Island. Once the new standards are codified into law, every public water system in the state will be required to test for three carcinogenic chemicals: Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and 1,4-dioxane. If levels of these contaminants exceed the new maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) public water systems will be required to take action. In addition, important legislation was passed that awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature that will limit 1,4-dioxane in household products, effective at the end of 2022, ban PFAS and PFOA from being used or manufactured for firefighting foam in New York and allow public water authorities to take water polluters to court in New York and recover the cost of treating our water for these chemicals.
This is the first time in nearly two decades that new chemicals will be regulated in drinking water across New York State. “This is a big moment for New York,” said Lisa Ott, North Shore Land Alliance President and CEO. “Preventing these harmful chemicals from entering our drinking water and removing them when present will not only benefit human health but will help protect and preserve the North Shore’s vulnerable ecosystems and environment.”
The compound 1,4-dioxane, which may be found in detergents, shampoos, baby products, lotions and more, is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In a recent study conducted by Citizens Campaign for the Environment, 1,4-dioxane contaminated 81 percent of products tested. Nassau and Suffolk water suppliers have reported the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane contamination in the nation. For a list of products containing this chemical, visit www.citizenscampaign.org.
PFOA and PFOS, which may negatively affect prenatal development and the immune system and may cause kidney and testicular cancer, have been used to make household products resistant to water, grease or stains, firefighting foam and much more. These forever chemicals, as they are referred to by experts, are particularly dangerous due to their stable chemical structure and resistance to breaking down. They linger in the environment and in the human body, resulting in bioaccumulation (the buildup of a chemical overtime) and can take years, even a decade, to excrete.
In the mid twentieth century, 1,4-dioxane, PFOS and PFOA were introduced to Long Island to meet the growing needs of the agricultural, industrial and manufacturing industries. They have entered our water from decades of improper use, disposal and storage and continue to travel down our drains into our septic systems and leach into our groundwater.
What you can do to help improve Long Island’s water quality: a public comment period is open until the end of September where you can urge the Department of Health to address declining water quality. Add your voice by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, the North Shore Land Alliance invites you to visit their website page here www.northshorelandalliance.org/the-state-of-long-islands-drinking-water to view their simple tips on what we can do now to help protect Long Island’s precious water resources.
The North Shore Land Alliance, Inc. is a nationally accredited nonprofit 501(c)(3) land trust founded in 2003 that works to protect and preserve, in perpetuity, the green spaces, farmlands, wetlands, groundwater and historical sites of Long Island’s North Shore for the enhancement of quality of life and benefit of future generations.
—Submitted by the North Shore Land Alliance