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Source: LI Herald

Carcinogen found in 39 L.I. water districts

Posted: March 1, 2017
Originally Published: February 28, 2017

A Citizens Campaign for the Environment report compiled from three years of publicly available water quality reports showed high levels of the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane in water serviced by the 39 water districts, including the Water Authority of Western Nassau, the Franklin Square Water District, New York American Water’s Lynbrook and Merrick Operations Districts, and the Town of Hempstead Water District. The research period was from 2013 through 2015.

Neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor the state currently regulates 1,4 dioxane, and there are no standards for what is considered a safe level, outside of the EPA’s reference for any cancer-risk chemical, which is 0.35 micrograms per liter.

The report, released Feb. 28, shows that the Water Authority of Western Nassau's water had, during periodic testing, the second highest levels of dioxane on Long Island at 12.0 micrograms per liter. Dioxane levels varied throughout the three-year period for all water authorities.

The CCE report is based on existing data found in the Annual Drinking Water Quality Reports from 58 major public water suppliers. Many of their reports included dioxane detection information, and those that did not were contacted by the CCE for further information.

Over the course of the three-year period, the Town of Hempstead Water District’s water contained, at times, 10.0 micrograms of dioxane per liter. Franklin Square Water District’s maximum dioxane level was 1.5 micrograms per liter. Tests done by New York American Water’s Merrick Operations showed the highest levels at 1.35 micrograms per liter, and their Lynbrook operations maximum tested at a high of 0.92 micrograms per liter.

New York American Water did not respond to requests for comment on the report.

Among those water districts that were not tested included NYAW’s Mill Neck Operations and the Cathedral Gardens Water District.

The village of Freeport had no detection of dioxane and Rockville Centre had a maximum of 0.21 - below the EPA guideline of 0.35.

Public water suppliers with populations below 10,000 are not required to test, which leaves approximately 76,000 individuals served by 22 public water suppliers on Long Island without information about their water.

According to the report, dioxane gets into the water through products that contain them, including laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, and body wash. Up to 46 percent of personal care products contain the chemical, which is not added into consumer goods for any reason, but rather is an unwanted byproduct of ethoxylation — a process used to reduce the risk of skin irritation caused by petroleum-based ingredients. Once in the groundwater and soil, the report stated, it is very hard to remove.

Legacy pollution — pollution left behind from past industrial activities— is also a source of 1,4 dioxane contamination.

Manufacturers can remove dioxane easily and cheaply, the report states, but because the FDA doesn’t mandate it, companies don’t take that extra step.

"Today's report highlights the need for swift and aggressive action by New York state to rid our drinking water of unsafe levels of 1,4 dioxane,” Senator Todd Kaminsky said. “I’ve spoken with the health commissioner and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s commissioner, and they have assured me that if the federal government will not set a standard within the next three months, they are going to set one themselves.”

Kaminsky added that although no water district on Long Island filters for the chemical the water, the Suffolk County Water District is doing a pilot program called advanced oxidation process that, if successful, could be a blueprint for the rest of Long Island. “If it works, all the water authorities on Long Island will want to use that,” Kaminsky said.

Kaminsky sponsored legislation last month requiring the state to review and regulate dioxane.

A copy of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment's report can be found at http://www.citizenscampaign.org/campaigns/dioxane.asp.