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Source: Newsday

Ban sought for chemicals in drinking water


Posted: January 16, 2012
Originally Published: January 11, 2012

A group of 23 environmental groups Wednesday demanded that state regulators ban the top three pesticides found in local drinking water as state guidelines on pesticide management are up for review.

The groups, citing state groundwater studies in a letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, took note of the "alarming" prominence of the three pesticides in drinking water. They want the DEC to enact a zero-tolerance policy for all pesticides in drinking water as the agency adopts a pesticide-use management plan for the region.

But farmers immediately fired back, calling the demands unrealistic and saying many other industries leave trace amounts of chemicals in groundwater.

The three chemicals, atrazine, metalaxyl and imidacloprid, are used on farms, golf courses and, in some cases, home gardens and lawns to kill bugs, weeds and fungus. State drinking water tests show they have turned up thousands of times in tests of public and private drinking water wells in the past decade, most on the East End, where agriculture is more common.

The environmental groups said the pesticides have been tied to health problems, including kidney and neurological effects, and can leach into waterways and kill wildlife. They are among the more than 120 pesticides that showed up in recent drinking water tests.

"This is not about restricting choices, it's about protecting drinking water," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a Farmingdale group. Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said the prominence of the chemicals was unacceptable and vowed to get results.

Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, called zero tolerance "an extreme point of view and not achievable." He said chemicals from nearly all industries, from dry cleaners to gasoline stations, show up in some trace amounts in groundwater.

That said, Gergela said local farmers are working with the DEC on the pesticide standards.

"We are cooperating with the DEC," he said. Farmers are also working to limit or end the use of pesticides deemed unhealthy, he said.

DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo said the agency has historically taken a "more conservative approach to pesticide . . . [regulation]" on Long Island compared to the rest of the state.