New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology at Stony Brook University on Thursday to announce a series of initiatives to protect water quality on Long Island.
Among these initiatives is a $6-million study of groundwater on Long Island to look for saltwater intrusion and chemical contamination. The governor hinted that the the university and its Center for Clean Water Technology will be involved in the groundwater study.
“We’ll do it in concert with the U.S. Geological Society, County of Nassau, County of Suffolk, Stony Brook, everybody on the same page,” Cuomo said.
The state established the center in 2014 to develop nitrogen removal technology for cesspools and septic systems.
“We are very excited about that,” Cuomo said on Thursday. “It couldn’t be at a better place. Let’s have a round of applause for Stony Brook.”
Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) mentioned the importance clean water to institutions like Stony Brook University Hospital.
“Imagine if you had a hospital and you had no water,” Flanagan said. “What the heck would you do? These are the things we really need to think about.”
The governor also announced that the state has begun testing samples from the Northrop Grumman plume on Long Island.
Grumman Corp. manufactured military equipment at its Bethpage plant until the ’90s, when it was acquired by Northrop Corp. The Department of Environmental Conservation on Thursday collected the first samples from six monitoring wells in the plume to be tested a toxic compound called dioxane that is used in airplane manufacturing.
The federal government, which controls the site through the Department of the Navy, was reluctant to allow the state to test the water, Cuomo said.
“Our position is the state of New York doesn’t need the permission from the federal government and that the state of New York has its own environmental jurisdiction, and we can do testing on our own,” Cuomo said.
The state is also putting together a “Statewide Water Quality Response Team” to coordinate responses to water quality emergencies and regulate contaminants to protect clean water. New York Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos will co-chair the team.
Cuomo said he believes the team will be the first of its kind in the country.
“We want to have the best state program in the nation to preserve water quality and spot problems before they come,” Cuomo said.
The governor alluded to the crisis in Flint, Michigan — where lead has contaminated the drinking water — to illustrate how infrastructure problems can affect water quality.
“There is nothing unusual about an older city having older infrastructure and lead pipes and the quality of water being demeaned by the infrastructure system itself,” Cuomo said. “So even if you have a quality water source, by the time you run it through a municipal water system that may be aging, you may contaminate the water source just through that infrastructure itself.”
Cuomo also said that Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) pushed for regulation of the mulch industry, which may be contaminating groundwater in Suffolk County. Englebright received his master’s degree from Stony Brook and represents the 4th District surrounding the university.
“There is no more serious issue on Long Island, or throughout the state, than the chemistry of our water,” Englebright said.