To The Editor:
In many parts of New York State, brownfields are present because of illegal dumping of toxic chemicals and other substances into the soil. These substances, many of which are linked to cancer, percolate down to the groundwater level and can contaminate the underground water sources that many areas rely on for drinking water. These contaminated underground areas often plume out and have been discovered under homes, schools and businesses.
Other sources of drinking water can also become polluted. Take the city of Newburgh. That city relies on potable water from Lake Washington. It was discovered that the lake is contaminated with a toxic substance called PFOS that is linked to cancer. The toxin was found in the water supply of Newburgh, and when some residents were tested for the presence of the toxin, their blood, in many instances, revealed levels above the federal guidelines for PFOS, especially in children. Residents were alarmed and rightly so. The town had to install a filtration system to alleviate the toxic levels. This costs big bucks. There is still the concern over the long-term effects from exposure to the contaminated water before remediation took place.
Other states face similar issues. We have all heard about the problems that Flint, Michigan, has had with lead contamination in its drinking water. In many cases, lead levels in the blood of children in that community were dangerously elevated. Such levels can cause all sorts of developmental problems.
On Jan. 30, a speaker from the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) made a presentation at the Bayside Hills Civic Association regarding the need to protect all sources of drinking water from contamination. The speaker mentioned that there are sites in Nassau and Suffolk counties where the groundwater is compromised. If contamination sites plume out, they can cross county lines and affect other underground areas, including those in parts of eastern Queens. With the cuts in the federal budget to the Environmental Protection Agency, the burden of monitoring, maintaining and remediating as necessary the quality of our drinking water is now pushed more onto the state.
NYPIRG is a not-for-profit, non-partisan watchdog group that works on a variety of socioeconomic issues, including consumer protection, environmental concerns, sustainable energy, public transportation, government accountability, hunger and homelessness, and voting rights.
NYPIRG is attempting to make the public aware of these drinking-water problems and issues. It is also petitioning the NYS Drinking Water Quality Council, which is part of the state Department of Health, to commit to continue to monitor, clean up, safeguard and properly maintain all public water systems throughout the state. It is calling on the council to protect drinking water by establishing the strictest possible health standards for unregulated contaminants.
Please contact your local elected officials and tell them that our drinking-water sources must be protected.