New York State has committed to investing $5 million in Stony Brook University’s Center for Clean Water Technology to develop new filtration technologies for water suppliers to remove increasing contaminants in drinking water on Long Island.
“What’s important about this work is that it enables water providers to get ahead of the curve in terms of drinking water protection,” Jennifer Garvey, assistant director of the Center for Clean Water Technology, said. “We’ll be testing out technology to remove contaminants beyond what is required and New York water providers can become models for providing advanced drinking water treatment.”
This funding comes after the State Department of Environmental Conservation declared Gabreski Airport in Westhampton a Superfund Site on Sept. 12. The DEC also called for the development of new clean water technologies.
Long Island is a sole source aquifer, Garvey said, which essentially means that the island’s drinking water sources sit underneath more than 500,000 septic systems across Nassau and Suffolk Counties. It delivers high concentrations of nutrients and other contaminants directly to groundwater, which is Long Island’s drinking water source.
According to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April, the DEC added perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, to the state’s list of hazardous substances. PFOS, a chemical commonly used in stain repellants, can cause blood, immune system, thyroid and fetal growth issues.
Cuomo’s release went on to say that only three months later, the DEC identified Gabreski Airport as a potential superfund site from the use of firefighting foam containing PFOS. After an investigation of soil samples and groundwater at Gabreski, PFOS contamination was significantly confirmed at the site.
“…It is imperative that the Department of Defense and Air National Guard continue to work alongside state and local government to ensure that all impacted residents have access to safe and clean drinking water,” NY-1 Congressman Lee Zeldin said in a letter to Ash Carter, secretary of defense and Lieutenant General Stanley E. Clarke III of the Air National Guard.
Drinking water quality is guided by Maximum Contaminant Levels, which are standards set by federal and state guidelines based on data, Garvey said. It identifies the legal threshold limit on the amount of a substance that is allowed in public water systems. One example is that the MCL for nitrogen in drinking water is 10mg/L.
“The New York State Department of Health is committed to ensuring clean drinking water for all New Yorkers, and this new partnership with the Center for Clean Water Technology will further our efforts to combat the threat of emerging contaminants in drinking water, while DEC utilizes the Superfund program to clean up contaminated sites like Gabreski Airport,” Howard Zucker, Department of Health commissioner, said in a press release. “I look forward to working with the Center to advance new research into emerging contaminants in order to quickly and effectively remove them from drinking water supplies across the state.”
The problem with creating new water technology to decrease contamination is that new chemicals and compounds are constantly being made. This results in a lengthy process to identify how much of those can be unsafe for drinking water.
“Once a standard is imposed, water providers are obliged to meet it, which can be difficult and costly,” Garvey said.
Piloting new water technology takes time because substantial data is required to assure that a technology is working reliably.
“It can be very challenging to find opportunities to pilot a new water technology because of the risk involved, in terms of expense, as well as fear of failure,” Garvey said. “Regulators are by nature very cautious — and rightfully so.”
The center says the $5 million provided for the pilot testing is vital to prove the capabilities of new technology and get it to the marketplace for implementation.
“Beyond pilot testing, it’s likely the center will also do some in-house R&D, which could lead to new innovations emanating from Stony Brook as well,” Garvey said.