Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions


Source: LI Herald

County Executive Curran calls on state to halt NYC's well permits

Experts: Having city draw water from L.I.'s aquifers could be catastrophic


Posted: February 5, 2018
Originally Published: February 3, 2018

At a Feb. 1 news conference, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran called on New York state not to renew the permits for 68 wells in Jamaica, Queens, until the United States Geological Survey completes the first phase of its study into the long-term effects of drawing water from them.

“We want them to pump the brakes to see what the study says,” she told the Herald in an interview.

Renewing the permits for the Queens wells, which expired at the beginning of the year, would enable New York City residents to have a back-up supply of water in the case of a drought, according to Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. She said in July that it has become necessary for New York City to re-open the wells because the city is planning to shut down an aqueduct that transports water from upstate New York into the city.

Esposito is fearful that re-opening the Queens wells, which have not been used since 2007, would reduce Long Island’s drinking-water supply. Long Island is designated as a sole-source aquifer, which means that all of its drinking water comes only from aquifers underground.
If the New York City Department of Environmental Protection is successful in its bid to re-open the wells in Queens, the DEP has the potential to take 62 million gallons of water per day from the aquifers, according to the draft environmental impact statement.

“We can’t give them our water. We don’t have it to give,” said Esposito, who also said at public hearings that the plan would only exacerbate a drought on Long Island. “We have to preserve what we have because there’s nowhere else to go.”

Other environmentalists worry about possible contamination from the wells. As the 68 wells drain an increasing amount of water from the aquifers, the water table would sink, and more salt water from the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean could infiltrate the aquifers. According to Sarah Meyland, the director of the Center for Water Resources Management at the New York Institute of Technology, the Lloyd aquifer, the deepest of Long Island’s aquifers, is on the cusp of having saltwater intrusion and may be pushed over the limit by New York City’s drawing water from the aquifer.

“It would be catastrophic for the City of Long Beach because all their water comes from the Lloyd aquifer,” Meyland said.

Depleting the water could also change the flow of plumes, which carry pollutants. In Bethpage, where the Northrop Grumman plant produced equipment for the military in the 1900s, pollutants flow into the Long Island Sound. To prevent these pollutants from contaminating the sound, however, the Town of Oyster Bay installed remediation wells in the path of the plume to clean up the water. Once the water table decreases, these plumes would no longer flow into the Sound, however. Instead, they would flow into Queens, where there are no remediation wells, and it would take years to install one.