By Maya Brown and Cindy Mizaku
The Franklin Square water district requested a $2.75 million bond three weeks ago from the Town of Hempstead to fund a new treatment plan to remove contaminants from its drinking water.
Amidst the same growing concerns about water quality, the West Hempstead Water District installed a hydrogen peroxide tank to remove dioxane on the 7th Street facility in Garden City South on Feb. 6, after receiving a state grant of $4.12 million.
Federal data collected between 2013 and 2016 shows that Long Island has by far the most contaminated drinking water in the New York State. On June 7, 2019, members of the Long Island congressional delegation sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking that Long Island is quickly provided with help and resources to protect residents from harmful substances found in drinking water. Since then, the state has awarded upwards $120 million to the Island’s water municipalities.
“I believe that the proper plans are in place, however, due to the lack of complete funding, the Franklin Square Water District is not able to put the remediation systems in place as quickly as they would like,” Jonathan Israel, Vice President of the Franklin Square Civic Association said.
The treatment plan in place at Franklin Square relies on air stripper facilities that pump underground water that is broken apart with pressurized air. The air movement lifts the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) out of the water, which is then transported to wells that raise the pH of acidic water. The bond would introduce the new treatment plan which adds an extra step called the advanced oxidation process that would safeguard the removal of toxic contaminants by adding hydrogen peroxide to the water through ultraviolet rays, then breaking down harmful chemicals and bacteria cells.
“Everybody needs to spend a little more money to make sure the proper treatment is in place,” Dennis Kelleher, Franklin Square water district engineer said. “Prior to two years ago, water suppliers never received any money. It wasn’t until 1,4 dioxane.”
Officials from both districts discussed water quality issues during a January meeting with the Franklin Square Civic Association. The root of concern was the spike in the water contaminant, 1,4 dioxane — a human carcinogen that is found in groundwater after manufacturing companies use it to dissolve oily substances in metal machinery. Long-term exposure to the chemical can cause skin, kidney and liver damage.
Nine Nassau water districts, including West Hempstead, filed a lawsuit against Dow Chemical, Ferro Corp. and Vulcan Materials Co. in January to compensate for contaminating drinking wells with dioxane.
“The people who made this and put it in the ground are the ones that should be held responsible, not the ratepayers, not the consumers — they’re the innocent party in all of this,” West Hempstead Water District Superintendent Jason Belle said.
The Safe Drinking Water Act — federal law that ensures safe drinking water — allows states to set their own standards. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) health guideline standard for dioxane is .35 parts per billion (ppb) — Franklin Square stood 2.1 times over the guidelines according to 2012-17 data published by the EWG Tap Water Database. West Hempstead water district, which also supplies water for parts in Franklin Square, did not exceed the dioxane level guidelines, according to the same database.
The removal of the compound is complicated due to dioxane’s physical, chemical properties, and its behavior, Franklin Square superintendent John Hughes said. However, with the help of the new treatment plan, the dioxane would be fully removed.
“But once we put [the advanced oxidation] process in the outcome, it’ll be zero parts,” Hughes said. “It’ll remove everything. The pilot study we did confirmed that we will be able to get down to zero parts.”
Franklin Square and West Hempstead Water Districts partner with H2M Architects + Engineers for engineering plans. “We actively collaborate with our clients so together we can develop a solution that is going to ensure protection of our public health and that’s going to make sure that they continue to meet the highest quality drinking water,” President and CEO Rich Humann said.
Along with installing the advanced oxidation unit, Hughes said that the new process will involve more testing in Melville Lab.
“This is something that needs to be monitored because you’re actually injecting hydrogen peroxide, you don’t want to put too little — you won’t remove [VOCs],” Hughes said.
If Franklin Square receives approval for the bond, the district will start construction of the 1,4 dioxane removal system in May and finish by the end of 2021, Hughes said.