Over the last few years, a groundwater pollution Superfund site in my community has generated concern among local residents—that much I’m sure of.
What I’m less clear of is to what extent this danger—the dry-cleaning fluid tetrachloroethylene has contaminated groundwater in a nearby well field (which comes with a hefty price tag for treatment)—has reignited people’s interest in the role they have in protecting their local water supply.
The “local” supply, in this case, is the Long Island aquifer system, designated “sole source” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “It’s our only source of drinking water,” says Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, in a new video produced by GRACE. “One hundred percent of our drinking water comes from directly underneath our feet.”
That means Long Islanders should take special care of this life-sustaining resource. There isn’t an alternative supply and the region’s geography has a lot to do with that, says Esposito: “The beauty of Long Island is that we are an island. The challenge of Long Island is we are an island.”
Esposito, whose organization for decades has promoted greater awareness of local water resources, explains that our actions on the land have grave implications for the quality of our drinking water “underneath our feet.” Pesticides, fertilizers and failing septic systems are just a few sources of pollution.
“High levels of nitrogen—associated with residential septic tanks and cesspools and fertilizer runoff from agricultural lands—in the groundwater has led to the degradation of local drinking water supplies as well as Long Island’s coastal ecosystems,” according to Christopher Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.
What can be done to improve the quality of—and better protect—Long Island’s water supply? Watch the video to find out. Okay, here’s one of the bigger solutions, if not the biggest: Long Island needs a new management structure and it needs it now.
Ron Busciolano, Supervisory Hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) New York Water Science Center, hits upon what is at stake when he speaks to the two primary reasons the USGS—which remains policy-neutral and only supplies the data and advice needed to make wise management decisions—takes such great interest in Long Island’s groundwater supply: 1) the health and well-being of about 2.8 million people on Long Island, and 2) the continued economic development for the region, both of which are tied to a clean, plentiful source of groundwater supply.
All Long Island communities, including mine, must take a greater interest in their local water supply. Consider this video a first step towards engaging Long Islanders about this unique aquifer system and providing ideas about how they can be better stewards of this vital resource.
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Originally published at Ecocentric