Long Island Groundwater Threatened By Contaminants
By Sara Jerome
Long Islanders recently learned their water supply is precariously situated — underneath some of the dirtiest spots in the country.
Long Island gets all of its drinking supply from groundwater. "The area’s water comes from aquifers, layers of sand that hold centuries of rainwater. However, aquifers also hold contaminants," Long Island News 12 reported.
The island's groundwater is not ideally situated. "Landfills, aerospace manufacturing, industrial operations and dry cleaners have dumped or leaked heavy metals, volatile organic chemicals and inorganic materials onto soil and into groundwater, threatening water supplies for the Island's nearly 3 million residents," News Day reported.
This hazard came into the public eye when New York compiled a list of superfund sites, which are the badly polluted areas requiring government money for restoration. A total of 254 of these pollution hot zones fall on Long Island. "Of those, 109 are considered to pose a significant threat to health or the environment, more than any other region overseen by the state Department of Environmental Conservation," News Day said.
What does this mean for the water supply? "Groundwater in those areas feature small amounts of contaminants, but environmentalists say it's still cause for concern," News 12 said.
Still, health officials say that tap water is safe thanks to treatment. "There's almost 300 parameters that we test for," Walter Dawydiak Jr., of the Suffolk County Health Department, told the outlet. "It's well in excess of the minimum requirement by federal and state law."
The downside is treating dirty groundwater is costly. One Long Island water district "was forced to spend $16 million after five of its eight wells were contaminated," the outlet said.
Some analysts believe an intervention may be needed. "The solution to our water woes is easy. We need a comprehensive, regional approach to water protection and coastal zone development. The first step is to create public awareness of the issues. That’s exactly what environmentalists, exposés and news organizations are trying to do," said Rich Murdocco of Long Island Business News.
Groundwater in Long Island also suffers from "seawater intrusion."
"In coastal areas, as water is drawn up for use, less groundwater is available to be discharged into the estuaries. The resulting loss of water and pressure allows saltwater from the ocean to flow into the aquifer, causing the groundwater to become saline," according to the Citizens Campaign For The Environment in New York.
Over 138 billion gallons of water are taken each year from beneath Nassau and Suffolk Counties, the report said.
Image credit: "Long Island Bridge," © 2010 matt.hintsa, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/