As water quality and quantity issues become more prevalent worldwide, Long Island, which draws its drinking water solely from the ground beneath our feet, will continue to rely heavily on the health of our strained aquifer.
Governor Andrew Cuomo was at Stony Brook University on Thursday, Feb. 18 to unveil several new groundwater initiatives aimed at protecting Long Island’s drinking water.
“This is gonna be one of the real challenges that unfolds and information is power and if we do this right we could literally save lives,” he told the crowd gathered to hear his four-point plan. “The geography of the island itself and the way the aquifers run, it makes the island the most environmentally sensitive part of the state of New York, just from a systems analysis.”
Mr. Cuomo announced earlier this year that he planned to provide the state’s Environmental Protection Fund with $300 million in this year’s budget, up a whopping $123 million over last year, and the highest amount ever allocated to the EPF. The governor is also proposing an additional $100 million for local governments to repair water infrastructure through the Water Infrastructure Act.
The state plans to pair with the U.S. Geological Survey, on a $6 million Comprehensive Groundwater Study for Nassau and Suffolk Counties, which, Mr. Cuomo said, “will examine saltwater intrusion, surface water impacts, contaminant transport and sustainable yield. The result will be a groundwater flow model, the international standard for understanding and managing groundwater impacts.”
“Let’s find out what’s going on,” said Mr. Cuomo. “Let’s find out if there is saltwater intrusion, where it’s coming from, if there is chemical contamination, where is it coming from?”
Mr. Cuomo also outlined a planned new coordinated review of the impact of mulch facilities on the environment, due to water runoff, odors and fires caused by the superheated mulch in large piles. The review will be conducted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.
Mr. Cuomo also announced that the DEC has just begun collecting samples, to be sent for “cutting-edge forensic analysis” from six monitoring wells at the Northrop Grumman dioxane plume, which originated in Bethpage, after the state ordered Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy to allow them to access the wells.
The governor also announced a new statewide Water Quality Rapid Response Team, which will “prepare a comprehensive action plan to immediately address water quality issues raised by municipalities and concerned citizens, tackling matters ranging from currently regulated contaminants, such as lead, to emerging contaminants, like perfluorooctanoic acid.”
“The actions that Governor Cuomo has announced today are demonstrating unequivocally that New York is taking proactive measures to not just meet that standard, but to really raise the bar on the protection of water quality,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Together with the state, we will take every step to regulate and address environmental pollution wherever it occurs, and ultimately ensure safe drinking water for all Long Islanders.”
“Individually each of these announcements are critically important. “Collectively this is a holistic approach and a game changer for the protection and sustainability of our water supply,” said Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito. “Water resources have been neglected for too long. This signifies a new prioritization of water protection which is woefully needed and joyfully accepted.”
The governor’s PowerPoint presentation accompanying his announcements is online here.