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Proactive Steps With Emerging Contaminants

Recently, news about emerging contaminants in Long Island water has dominated the media, in particular, a man-made chemical called 1,4-dioxane. Rest assured the Greenlawn Water District has been proactive, taking steps to monitor for 1,4-dioxane and to meet the challenge in preparation for the anticipated New York State Department of Health’s (NYSDOH) mandated Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) of 1 part per billion (ppb) for 1,4-dioxane in potable drinking water.

A Nation-Leading Standard

In July 2019, Governor Cuomo’s office announced it has accepted the New York State Drinking Water Quality Council’s recommendations for maximum contaminant levels in drinking water for PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-dioxane, and has directed the Department to begin the regulatory process for adopting these enforceable standards. The standard of 1 part per billion for 1,4-dioxane is the nation’s first-ever level set for that contaminant.

There was a 60-day public comment period, which ended on September 24th, 2019, after which the comments were to be reviewed, and a recommendation to revise or submit the MCLs for adoption by the Public Health and Health Planning Council, subject to the approval of the Commissioner of Health. As of now, the comments and proposed regulation have not been made public.

Understanding 1,4-dioxane

1,4-Dioxane is a synthetic chemical historically used as a stabilizer for industrial solvents, predominantly 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA). 1,4-Dioxane is long-lasting in the environment and is present in our groundwater as a legacy of industrial manufacturing from the 1950s to 1990s. In addition to its use as a solvent stabilizer, it is used in small concentrations in a variety of applications, such as inks and adhesives. It is also found in trace amounts in products such as cosmetics, detergents, and shampoos.

What is the current status regarding 1,4-dioxane, and how is the Greenlawn Water District combatting this problem?

Based on the recent New York State Drinking Water Council’s recommendations for maximum contaminant levels for 1,4-dioxane (1 part per billion), none of the Greenlawn Water District’s 14 active wells currently exceed the likely to be established standard. However, we continually monitor our wells to ensure that we maintain current readings for all identified contaminants. With the assistance of a grant from the New York State Center for Clean Water (Stony Brook University), we recently commenced a pilot program to test remediation processes for 1,4-dioxane at our well that had the highest reading.

Conducting this pilot study is an important step in developing a viable remediation methodology for our source water while continuing to provide Greenlawn Water District residents with a high quality and plentiful water supply at reasonable cost. By deploying two different oxidants like titanium dioxide and hydrogen peroxide to destroy 1,4-dioxane, we will ultimately determine the fastest and most effective means of removing 1,4-dioxane from our water supply.

Cost Control

It is important to appreciate that neither the Greenlawn Water District nor Greenlawn residents caused the 1,4-dioxane situation to occur, and the Board of Commissioners adamantly maintains that neither party should have to bear the cost burden of 1,4-dioxane clean up and remediation. In addition to proactively taking steps to monitor and improve the quality of your water, the Greenlawn Water District has commenced legal proceedings against those responsible for the pollution and has also applied for financial grants.

Legal Action

Along with other water suppliers, the Greenlawn Water District is continuing its lawsuit against Dow Chemical, Ferro Corporation, and Vulcan Materials Company—the manufacturers of 1,4-dioxane itself and the industrial solvent TCA it was used in. The lawsuit cites defective design, failure to warn about dangers and negligence, among other things. The suit is asking the court to hold these companies responsible for paying for the necessary equipment to remove 1,4-dioxane from our drinking water as well as ongoing costs for operations, maintenance, testing and compliance. Our attorneys have filed the necessary motions and paperwork, but no date for a trial has yet been set.

WIIA Grant

The New York Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2017, (WIIA), authorized the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) to provide grants to assist municipalities in funding water quality infrastructure. Drinking water projects may be eligible for a WIIA grant of $3 million or 60% of the total net project costs, whichever is less. The Greenlawn Water District has applied for a grant to assist in meeting anticipated costs for well remediation, and we will keep residents informed as to progress.

Going Forward

The health and wellbeing of our residents remains our paramount concern. Your Greenlawn Water District staff, superintendent and commissioners are addressing the 1,4-dioxane situation in a comprehensive, transparent and thorough manner with scientific, legal and regulatory guidance. As stewards of our great single source aquifer, we honor our pledge to provide an uninterrupted supply of the highest quality water to our residents each and every day while being vigilant in protecting our precious supply from all known contaminants. The Greenlawn Water District will continue to safeguard our community by maintaining adequate storage reserves, by remaining compliant with all regulatory agencies and by promoting conservation and sustainability through proven scientific practices.

– The Board of Commissioners, Greenlawn Water District