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Long Island’s Drinking Water Found to be Most Contaminated in State

NYPIRG Releases Report on Statewide Contamination

During the week of Memorial Day, the New York Public Interest Research Group announced findings that were, perhaps, unsurprising to many Long Islanders. A study conducted on emerging contaminants throughout New York State found that Long Island has the highest concentration of dangerous chemicals in the state.

Using data collected between 2013 and 2016, the report’s primary conclusion was that one or more emerging contaminants are currently a direct threat to the drinking water supplies of 16 million New Yorkers. For Long Island, a total of 19 emerging contaminants were found to exist, including strontium, chlorate and chromium-6 and 1,4-dioxane, both likely carcinogens. Nassau County had the greatest share of contaminated areas on the island.

For those unfamiliar with “emerging contaminants”, these compounds are either only recently known, only recently detectable with available science or previously had not been present. Most frequently, emerging contaminants originate from industry, including spills and the disposal of wastewater or from personal care products. The emerging contaminant Long Islanders are likely most familiar with is 1,4-dioxane. It is believed that Long Island has the greatest concentrations of 1,4-dioxane in the entire country as a result of the past presence of the chemical in paints, primers and inks. Today, an estimated 46 percent of personal care products are found to have 1,4-dioxane present. 1,4-dioxane is known as a Synthetic Organic Compound as it is not a naturally occurring substance.

While this report certainly confirmed many Long Islanders’ fears on the declining quality of the island’s drinking water, it is important to note that most communities on Long Island do not have contaminated water. As Stony Brook Professor and Partnership member Dr. Christopher Gobler noted while speaking to Newsday, however, “It's a misnomer to lump all of Long Island's drinking water into a single category. If you were to do an honest comparison of the data for the water that Long Islanders drink, you'll find plenty of supplies that compare favorably with New York City." The most notable area of pure drinking water on Long Island is the Long Island Pine Barrens.

Overall, this report provides a drastic call to action for Long Islanders to join in the work of reversing the trend of declining water quality. Without continued efforts to improve the island’s environment, daily life in many communities will be irreparably changed forever. All life depends on clean and safe drinking water. We must make our efforts worthy of this fact.

For those interested in reading the NYPIRG’s full report, please visit nypirg.org. For more information on ways you can help save Long Island’s drinking water, check out our Take Action page.