Elected officials from both Nassau and Suffolk County gathered today in a bi-partisan effort to urge Governor David Paterson to sign a bill banning the pumping and storage of treated water into the Lloyd Aquifer, the deepest and purest source of drinking water on Long Island.
"New York City's ill-advised and reckless plan to inject chemically treated water into the Lloyd Aquifer jeopardizes the sole source of drinking water for 3 million Long Islanders," said Nassau County Legislator Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale). "We are asking our friend, Governor Paterson, not to allow the City of New York to endanger our water supply."
The signing of the Lloyd Aquifer Protection Bill (S.1558/A.2986) by Governor Paterson would ensure that the Lloyd Aquifer is not contaminated by the infusion of water from the New York metropolitan area. There is widespread concern that chemicals in the treated water could pose a serious health threat when mixing with the pristine water in the Lloyd Aquifer.
Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said, "The protection of the Lloyd Aquifer has been of the utmost importance to me for years. I testified before State hearings on the matter. Its protection is our legacy for future generations. I would urge the governor sign this bill to be certain that the protection which has been in place since the early '80s continues."
Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), chairman of the Legislature's Planning, Development and Environment Committee, a strong advocate for the banning of stored, treated water in the Lloyd Aquifer, appealed to Governor Paterson in a Sept. 17, letter to sign these vital bills which are critical to protecting our drinking water supply.
Nassau County Republican Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) added words of support to this urgent plea for the governor's signature. "I am proud of the work Legislator Judy Jacobs, Sarah Meyland, a leading environmental advocate, and I did to protect the Lloyd so far. It is heartening that so many more are joining in this endeavor to continue the protection of this pristine water supply as I consider the Lloyd Aquifer one of the more important environmental concerns," said Legislator Ford.
The plan, proposed by New York City, calls for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to approve the pumping of billions of gallons of Catskill Mountain Water into wells drilled into the Lloyd aquifer in Queens. The water could later be tapped in case of emergency or maintenance work proposed on existing New York City aqueduct tunnels.
The Lloyd is the deepest of 3 aquifers that supply Long Island with its only source of drinking water. Beginning approximately 200 feet below the surface the Lloyd extends as deep as 1500 feet in some areas. Little scientific work has been done to characterize the size or extent of the Lloyd aquifer, although it is estimated that the water contained in the sand and gravel mix is anywhere from 1,000 - 3,000 years old. New York City admits that part of their plan relies on assumptions regarding the Lloyd composition.
New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) supplies drinking water to the most of the city, as well as Westchester, Putnam, Ulster and Orange County. They supply approximately 1.2 billion gallons of drinking water per day. Most of this water originates in upstate reservoirs and is transported to the city via three aqueduct tunnels. However, the DEP learned over a decade ago that the Delaware Aqueduct tunnel was leaking as much as 36 million gallons a day, 9 percent of the estimated daily flow of 400 million gallons. This is why the city is proposing pumping an extra 50 million gallons a day into the Lloyd through wells in Queens for the next 5 years. The goal would be an artificial storage of water that could supply 200 million gallons a day for two years.
Potential problems cited by scientists, environmentalists and local community leaders include potential damage to the Raritan Clay layer. The clay is impermeable and acts as a natural boundary between the Magothy Aquifer and the Lloyd Aquifer. Increased pressure from injecting so much water from New York City could compromise the structural integrity of this layer, leading to a potential devastating collapse of the entire aquifer system under Long Island.
Other potential problems include introducing water that has been chemically treated with chlorine and fluoride and containing dissolved nutrients and bacteria into the Lloyd's untouched pristine water. Scientists speculate that combining surface water and ground water with such different qualities could lead to some harmful chemical compounds. These include trihalomethanes, which have been linked to cancer and formed during a similar aquifer storage program in Lancaster, California during the 1990s. Another risk is explosive harmful bacteria growth, clogging pipes and wells that rely on the Lloyd for drinking water.