Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just How Safe Is Long Island's Drinking Water?

New York Ranks High On List Of Clean Water Act Violations

Far from the pristine watersheds of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, where clean water flows from crystal clear reservoirs to the boroughs, the aquifers that supply water to 2.7 million Long Islanders -- for drinking, cooking, and bathing -- lay far below the sand, the rock, the shale that is Long Island.

A Long Island landscape that, for more than 50 years, has had its share of pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic, possibly carcinogenic material -- not to mention MTBE -- laid upon the land, leaching down, down, down into the life-giving aquifers that gather water below us.

Yes, naturally filtered, and then, cleansed and treated yet again once pumped to the surface, but is Long Island's water supply really clean, safe, potable? Or is the water into which we've been running off everything from PCBs to motor oil, fertilizers to detergents, hazardous to our health?

The State of New York, which supposedly monitors such things as water quality, tells us that our water is safe to drink. Reassuring?

The local water districts, which routinely test our water for everything from Arsenic to Zirconium, report that whatever is lurking in our H2O, be it naturally occurring or some man-made additive, is at "safe levels." [So, there are "safe levels" of Mercury, Lead, and other toxins? Hmmmm.]

Not to sound alarmist, or to have Long Islanders holding that glass of water up to the light, but... Hey, its not paranoia when someone is really following you!

The New York Times, in its series Toxic Waters, reports on "the worsening pollution in American waters and the regulators' response."

Here in New York State, not altogether surprisingly, it appears that out of 4606 facilities that have permits to discharge pollutants [you mean they're allowed to do this?], 1675 have one or more violations (many have hundreds) of the Clean Water Act (or other environmental regulations), 856 of these facilities (51%) are out of compliance. As for formal enforcement actions by State or local authorities -- Count 'em -- 55.

Click HERE to view the water polluters in New York.

By the way, this list doesn't include the illegal polluters of our streams, rivers, watersheds, and aquifers, New York's Superfund sites, or the more than 5200 (as of February, 2008) gasoline spills, leading to MTBE contamination, all of which contribute to the degradation of our water supply.

On Long Island, numerous polluters are redefining water quality, right under our feet -- literally.

Here are but a few instances:

Continental Villa in Locust Valley -- 240 violations; no enforcement actions; $0 fines

Jurgielewicz Duck Farm in Brookhaven -- 237 violations; 3 enforcement actions; $0 fines

Riverhead Foundation Research -- 89 violations; no enforcement actions; $0 fines

Port Jefferson Sanitary District #1 -- 70 violations; 1 enforcement action; $0 fines

Village of Great Neck (Water Treatment) -- 55 violations; 2 enforcement actions; $1,100 fines

City of Long Beach (Water Treatment) -- 25 violations; no enforcement actions; $0 fines

And the list of polluters -- including the folks who are supposed to be keeping our water safe -- goes on, and on, and on.

All of this, of course, does not take into account the tons of contaminants that Long Island's home and commercial business owners dump into storm sewers, onto lawns, down their drains, most of which, given time, find their way into the aquifers, our island's sole supply of drinking water.

No, we haven't seen children born with two heads, or mutant squirrels bounding about, but those "cancer clusters" are certainly of great concern.

Aside from the proclivity of Long Islanders to accept such banes upon our quality of life as outrageous property taxes, costly and outmoded special taxing districts, and politicians who perennially promise, but rarely, if ever, deliver -- it would appear that "there must be something in the water" is a whole lot more than mere rhetoric.

Shouldn't we all be asking, "What's in our water?"


  1. Aside from spills and discharges, there is also risk associated with what the EPA lovingly refers to as "lust" - leaking underground storage tanks. Indeed there is a whole database of these babies and it turns out Long Island is fllled with lust, (the environmental kind that is) stemming from the days when residential builders thought it was a good idea to bury the old oil tank, as opposed to locating it either in the basement or outside the house. There's also the small matter of the massive number of gas stations we have.

  2. Thanks for the informative post...I live on Long Island and have been debating recently whether to drink bottled water (which pollutes the environment with all that plastic not to mention cost) vs drinking filtered Long Island tap water which could be contaminated with MTBE :(