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Editorial: Watching Over Our Water Supply

A recent sojourn to Southeast Asia was filled with bustling life, vivid colors, arresting scents and myriad tastes. The golden Buddahs and exquisite spirit houses that graced even the most humble homes or the lush terraced rice paddies or the magical vertical islands of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, were mind-expanding visions of very different environments and ways of living. And the people were welcoming, friendly and eager to share a glimpse into their cultures with us.

But I couldn’t help myself, being acutely aware of the poor air quality, I always asked our local guides about how they get their drinking water. Dependable potable water does not come through the taps. It must be boiled to rid it of bacteria, but certainly boiling will not remove toxins that may have been dumped into waterways. Even the bottled water there contained levels of salt and metallic tastes that would not be acceptable here.

The experience there made me even more grateful for the plentiful and pure water we enjoy here in Great Neck.

Just before leaving on the trip, the Record reported on a public meeting held by the Department of Environmental Conservation to inform the public of expanded remediation and investigation of sites on Great Neck Road that were polluted with Tetrachloroethene (PCE).

The superintendent of the Water Authority of Great Neck North, Gregory Graziano, along with the assistant superintendent Stephen Moriarty were present and asked very specific and pointed questions about the depth of the water samples taken for testing by the responsible party’s engineer with oversight from the DEC.

It is critically important for any water provider to be a watchdog for the public when it comes to contaminated sites that could potentially affect the aquifers and drinking water wells. Plumes of contamination travel with the flow of the aquifers and if they reach drinking wells, treatment equipment must already be in place to remove toxins, otherwise a drinking well would have to be closed, changing the complicated pumping patterns on the peninsula.

There was a very thoughtful exchange of information among the professionals present and it was good to see the responsiveness and openness of the DEC representatives on these matters. The DEC has seen a significant reduction in staff in the last 10 years losing a thousand employees, but is striving, ever harder, to fulfill their mission to protect the environment and hence the health of the public.

After the meeting, Graziano added a written comment to the DEC saying, “Due to the fact that Tetrachloroethene’s (PCE) specific gravity is 1.6 of water, there is a tendency for the contaminant to sink quickly and sit on the clay lense and follow the natural groundwater flow direction. In this instance, the shallow monitoring wells that have been sampled regarding this spill would not detect the contaminant. Therefore, the Water Authority officially requests that additional monitoring wells be constructed and sampled, between the spill site, and the Water Authority’s Watermill Lane well field, at the level the Water Authority derives its drinking water from.”

We sometimes hear people grumbling about the cost of water, but to us, it is still the best bargain around. One that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.              -Carol Frank