This legislation would establish the “Long Island Water Quality Control Act”. Although the goals of the legislation are laudable due to the breadth, scope, duplication, uncertainty and potential costs of the legislation the Business Council opposes the legislation. The legislation as drafted would put Long Island agriculture in jeopardy, and could cost Suffolk county homeowners collectively $ 3.6 Billion.
The legislation contains many numerous technical errors, and missing definitions causing the bill to become unworkable.
- Long Island Groundwater Management Goal – The stated goal is not a goal but a confused directive. A literal reading of the directive would require regulation of surface water as a drinking water supply and to protect its ecological integrity. There are locations on Long Island that have saline surface water that will never be drinking water. Additionally, the provisions appears to ignore that New York State pursuant to article 17 of the Environmental Conservation Law, after proper study and following public hearings held on due notice, adopts and assigns the classifications and standards of quality and purity to all surface waters within the designated drainage basin the State. Furthermore the “goal” does not consider that under the New York State Public Health Law, NYSDOH is responsible for the protection of public health and for ensuring a safe supply of drinking water for the State's citizens. Specifically, under the Public Health Law and Part 5 of the State Sanitary Code, NYSDOH administers a major program to ensure that all water-supply systems in the State are operated and maintained properly and that all consumers are assured delivery of a safe and adequate supply of water. The directive if adopted should be a goal and extend to both DEC and DOH.
- New Construction and Substantial Reconstruction The legislation requires all substantial reconstructionin a priority nitrogen-reduction area to utilize a denitrification system. Substantial reconstruction is not defined. Give the significant potential cost of a denitrification system (30,000 – 50,000) care should be taken to reduce potential uncertainty for owners of homes and structures. Additionally the provisions appear to only apply to the deployment of a denitrification systems for waste water treatment, but it could also be extended to cover the treatment of industrial waste without a discharge.
- Pesticide Evaluation Report is Static The legislation requires the development of a duplicative pesticide management plan for Long Island additionally the pesticide action plan shall be based upon water quality data from 2008-2010. The reports are to be issued every two years starting in 2015. The report should include the most recent data to reflect current conditions.
- Priority Sewering Area The legislation requires DEC to identify priority sewering areas, but provides no criteria for the determination of such areas. Additionally, DEC is provided until June of 2016 to make those designations, but requires when repairs are made that owners of priority sewering areas to install conforming systems by January of 2017.
- Priority Sewering Area & Priority Nitrogen Reduction Areas The legislation has specific septic requirements for county identified priority nitrogen areas but requires the State with no consideration of nitrogen reduction area to identify priority sewering areas. In order to avoid confusion and to reduce wasted efforts the two areas should be identified by the same government body, and should be developed in consideration of the other designation.
There is no denying that Long Island's bays and harbors are some of New York's most crucial habitats, and significant effort has been and should be taken to protect, preserve and restore these habitats and drinking water source. But much of the intent of this legislation is being addressed through Federal, State, County, and Local government action.
As one example the Department of Environmental Conservation recently released a 126-page Long Island Pesticide Pollution Prevention Strategy. The Strategy, which will be effective July 11th, was developed in collaboration with numerous stakeholders. The strategy strengthens DEC's existing pest management regulatory program while recognizing the need for pest management. Pursuant to the strategy, DEC will develop a Technical Review and Advisory Committee (TRAC) comprised of state and local government agencies, local organizations and academic representatives. The TRAC will advise DEC on pesticide use patterns, aquifer vulnerability and human health risks, and will also recommend alternatives and pollution prevention measures to address pesticide-associated contaminants in groundwater. Many people believe that the strategy can be effective at protecting groundwater.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, was recently quoted as saying she believes the strategy could help protect groundwater “as long as those on the committee work aggressively and honestly with each other.” The TRAC should be allowed to meet before legislation is advanced that would undermine the process.
New York has demonstrated a willingness to take affirmative steps based on the specific pesticide product characteristics. The DEC has placed strict prohibitions on the application of 361 pesticides in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Another 145 are registered for use on Long Island only when used in accordance with specific label conditions.
In conclusion, the legislation represents a significant potential cost to homeowners. Suffolk County has identified 360,000 unsewered homes. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has estimated that denitrification systems cost approx. $30,000. Given the lack of clarity contained in the legislation every homeowner in Suffolk could potentially be required to install such a system. If only a third of households were required to install a denitrification system it would cost $3.6 Billion. Such a mandate would have a devastating effect on local property values, and the local economy.
The Business Council strongly urges that this legislation not be advanced.