The Nassau County Legislature recently held a hearing to discuss the dangers of 1,4-dioxane and how to combat the contaminant. The hearing was called following the state health department announcing it would begin regulating the amount of 1,4-dioxane in the state’s water supply.
Attending the hearing was a panel of water experts and officials, including Massapequa Water District Commissioner Stan Carey, who also serves on the Legislative Committee for the Long Island Water Conference.
“They wanted to know from industry experts what this means and what is it going to do to Long Island,” said Carey. “The real concern among the public water suppliers is not that [1,4-dioxane] shouldn’t be regulated, which we all agree it should, but it’s happening too fast.”
Carey, along with many of the officials at the hearing, told the legislators that 1,4-dioxane doesn’t get treated like other chemicals do through granular activated carbon (GAC) filters. It will require creating Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) technology and equipment that has only just been approved by the health department to begin use, leaving many districts needing time to get these systems up and running.
“The industry as a whole is still learning a great deal about it,” said Carey. “If the health department regulates 1,4-dioxane by the beginning of 2020, the water suppliers are not going to be able to design equipment, get it approved and install [them] in time.”
The water suppliers are calling on the state to allow a two-to-three-year phase-in period that will allow the water districts to get the necessary funding, planning and construction done for these AOP systems. The state granted $27 million to many Long Island communities to take care of the issue, but the systems must be approved by the state on a case-by-case basis.
The worry is that if the water districts can’t comply immediately with regulations, vital wells would have to be shut down and would cause a potential crisis of trying to get residents their water.
“If any of these water suppliers’ wells are over the state’s 1,4-dioxane limit, these wells are just not going to run,” said Carey. “There would need to be a massive conservation mandate and that could affect the industry and jobs.”
Legislator Rose Marie Walker, who was among the legislators at the hearing, said that she understands where the water experts like Carey are coming from and many of the legislators will be calling on the state to give the suppliers more time so that way no one loses their water thanks to a well shutdown.
“If wells shut down, there will be a real water shortage problem,” said Walker. “Residents need water for drinking, cooking and many other things. Firefighters need the water to do their job. Bethpage Water District stated they could possibly not have enough water for St. Joseph Hospital [if wells shut down].”
1,4-dioxane is a synthetic chemical used as a stabilizer in other industrial chemicals that is mostly found in products such as household cleaning items, detergents, shampoos and cosmetics. The big concern behind the chemical is that it is a suspected carcinogen, which is a substance that can cause the formation of cancer. The legislature has already sent letters to the state to call on the ban of the chemical in various products.
In a 2016 study by the Long Island Water Conference, water districts such as Bethpage and the Villages of Hempstead and Garden City had some of the higher levels of 1,4-dioxane in the water, with Bethpage dealing with 60 percent of the water having 1.0 part per billion (PPB) of the contaminant. The Massapequa Water District was tested to have zero 1,4-dioxane in the water, while Aqua NY, Inc., which served the eastern parts of Massapequa at the time, had only 10 percent of the water having 1.0 PPB of the chemical.
The Drinking Water Council recommended to the state health department in 2018 that they should start regulating the 1,4-dioxane.
With the Bethpage Plume present and on the move, Carey said that the water district will continue to test the water at their monitoring wells for any indication of the chemical entering the water supply.