Roslyn Water District plays down findings of environmental report on carcinogen

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Roslyn Water District Superintendent Richard J. Passariello played down the results of an environmental report that found the district’s water to have levels of a dangerous carcinogen, 1,4-Dioxane, above an Environmental Protection Agency cancer risk guideline.

“The greatest challenge to Long Islandʼs sustainability and survivability is the protection of our drinking water supply,” said the report, released by the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The vulnerability of our underground water supply cannot be overstated and emerging contamination threats need to be fully explored and swiftly addressed.”

Passariello said last Friday the district test results have found levels of the carcinogen at less than one part per billion.

“We have very low levels in the Roslyn Water District,” Passariello said.

The Roslyn Water District covers the villages of Roslyn, Roslyn Estates, Roslyn Harbor, East Hills, Flower Hill, North Hills and parts of Port Washington and the unincorporated areas of Albertson, Glenwood Landing, Greenvale and Roslyn Heights.

The level of the carcinogen in district water exceeds the nonbinding EPA cancer risk guideline of 0.35 parts per billion but is far lower than the New York State Health Department’s generic standard of 50 parts per billion.

“The facts are the facts,” Passariello said. “The current drinking standard is 50 parts per billion; we’re well below that.”

Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said such thinking is “exactly the problem.”

“That water districts need a drinking water standard set by the state or the EPA,” she said. “There is not a specific standard for 1,4-Dioxane other than a generic standard. That doesn’t mean the generic standard is safe. In fact, we believe it to be unsafe.”

Asked whether the generic standard was set too high, Passariello said that’s “not something we get into.”

“The scientists at the EPA and the Health Department make that determination,” he said. “We just follow regulations and we’re in compliance with standards on 1,4-Dioxane.”

The contaminant is regularly found in detergents, shampoos and other personal care products.

It is also found in food products, Passariello said.

The report said pollution from industrial activities is also a source of 1,4-Dioxane.

“That’s something that needs to be looked into: the source of where 1,4-Dioxane is coming from,” Passariello said. “We support the science going into the need to eliminate the source,” he said. 

Esposito said  statements focusing on the source of the carcinogen are “deflecting the problem.”

“Yes, it’s ending up in our water because of past industrial discharge and current homeowner use,” she said. “It’s still the water company’s responsibility to filter it out, regardless of the source.”

Esposito said Cuomo administration staff members as well as New York State Health Commissioner Howard A. Zucker “agreed if the EPA doesn’t set a national standard, the state will initiate that process.”

As of February, the state has given the EPA three months to move forward. Otherwise, state officials will initiate the process of setting a standard of their own, Esposito said.

“Once there’s a standard, that’s the law,” she added.

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