Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions



For immediate release:
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
For more information contact:
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, 516-390-7150, 631-384-1378 (mobile), aesposito@citizenscampaign.org


County Health Officials Fail to Tell the Public that Record Levels of Manganese in Drinking Water is Very Harmful

New groundwater test results of wells in Yaphank just south of 275 East Main Street showed Manganese at the highest levels ever recorded in Suffolk County. Yet, in today’s Newsday a calming but disturbing and incorrect comment is attributed to public health officials, “The contaminant levels there are higher than usual for Long Island, but they do not pose a public health risk.” This statement is an egregious breach of the public trust and dangerous misinformation for Suffolk County to be providing. The manganese levels in groundwater samples topped out at 49,300 ppb. Drinking water standard is 300 ppb. Is this a potential health problem – Yes, and our health officials should admit it and retract today’s bizarre and harmful press comments.

According to the US Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR), “The most common health problems in workers exposed to high levels of manganese involve the nervous system. These health effects include behavioral changes and other nervous system effects, which include movements that may become slow and clumsy. This combination of symptoms when sufficiently severe is referred to as “manganism”. Nervous system and reproductive effects have been observed in animals after high oral doses of manganese.” Also, “ Studies in children have suggested that extremely high levels of manganese exposure may produce undesirable effects on brain development, including changes in behavior and decreases in the ability to learn and remember.”

The symptoms of manganese toxicity generally appear slowly over a period of months to years. In its worst form, manganese toxicity can result in a permanent neurological disorder with symptoms similar to those of Parkinson's disease, including tremors, difficulty walking, and facial muscle spasms. This is “manganism” syndrome and is sometimes preceded by psychiatric symptoms, such as irritability, aggressiveness, and even hallucinations. Additional impacts include clinical symptoms of effects to the lung include cough, acute bronchitis, and decreased lung functions.
In addition, alpha and beta radiation was also found to be elevated, yet Suffolk Health official Dr. Sal Scarpitta stated “We’re 100,000 times lower than dose you would get at an X-ray”. This is a disingenuous comment designed to dismiss public concerns. Surely, Dr. Scarpitta is aware that people are not getting X-rays every day since that would be considered harmful. Yet, he readily dismisses exposure to alpha and beta radiation every time someone drinks a glass of water or takes a shower?

CCE is gravely concerned and unnerved by Suffolk County Health Department’s casual and dismissive responsive to this growing groundwater crises emerging around composting and mulching operations. The people of Yaphank deserve better.


Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) empowers communities and advocates solutions for our shared environment and public health and is supported by over 80,000 members throughout New York State and Connecticut. www.citizenscampaign.org

updated by bsmith  11/15/11