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Source: LI Herald

Fresh efforts to monitor drinking water quality

New York State is stepping up efforts to improve drinking water quality and monitoring.


Posted: June 1, 2017
Originally Published: June 1, 2017

New York state will soon begin implementing changes that will alter the way drinking water is protected and monitored for the better.

Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed two laws — plus several amendments to existing laws — that included stepped-up monitoring for contaminants not regulated by the federal government’s Safe Water Drinking Act.

Through the Emerging Contaminant Monitoring Act, the state requires public water systems to be tested for compounds regulated by the federal government and “any physical, chemical, microbiological or radiological substance listed as an emerging contaminant.” This includes 1,4 dioxane, which has been the focus of significant media attention in recent months due to studies showing high levels of the chemical — labeled a “likely carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency — in many Long Island public water systems.

The contaminants will be identified by the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation with the help of a 12-person Drinking Water Quality Control Council, which will be appointed and overseen by the DEC and the DOH and will comprise scientists, and state and water representatives. It will hold its first meeting on Long Island this month.

“The EPA is really stagnant right now,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The president’s budget calls for another 31 percent cut from the EPA, so I think they are in a budget problem right now, which is unfortunate — and dangerous.”

Under the Emerging Contaminant Monitoring Act, once dangerous compounds are identified, the DOH will adopt regulations requiring all public water supply systems to test for them at least once every three years. Public water system operators must notify the DOH within 24 hours of testing which contaminants exceeded acceptable levels and the areas served by that water district must also receive notification.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a supporter of monitoring dioxane on Long Island, expressed concern about the public water companies’ ability to remove the chemical. “I want everyone to realize that you can’t have a natural contaminant level set without having the technology in place to remove it,” Kaminsky said. “If we can’t remove it, we can’t say, ‘Well, we’re working on it.’ That’s why the water pilot program being developed in Suffolk County is critical.”

Suffolk’s pilot system uses a process known as advanced oxidation, and small trials have demonstrated success in removing dioxane. “It’s a technology that has been used in other parts of the country in wastewater systems, but hasn’t been used in drinking water systems yet,” said Brad Hutton, deputy commissioner in the Office of Public Health for the state’s Department of Health.

The system could prove expensive for water service providers. “This technology can cost upwards of $1.5 million if they don’t have carbon filtration system in place,” Hutton said.