SCWA adds $20 to quarterly water bills


The Suffolk County Water Authority Board recently approved a $20 quarterly fee to be added to customer bills beginning Jan. 1, 2020 to pay for the cost of developing and operating treatment systems for 1,4-dioxane and the perfluorinated compounds PFOS and PFOA in anticipation of New York State’s pending regulation of the contaminants.

The regulation of 1,4-dioxane at 1 part per billion and PFOS and PFOA at 10 parts per trillion, recommended last year by the New York State Drinking Water Quality Council, is expected to be announced by state officials at any time. When the regulations are established, SCWA will need to put into service 56 new advanced oxidation process treatment systems and 20 granular activated carbon systems. The cost of installing and operating those systems is expected to exceed $177,000,000 over the next five to six years.

“Our mission is to provide our customers high-quality water that is constantly tested at the lowest possible cost,” said SCWA chairman Patrick Halpin. “When the state takes action to remove 1,4-dioxane, PFOS and PFOA from Long Island’s groundwater, SCWA will be ready to continue to fulfill that mission.”

“As we’ve said since state officials first began considering the regulation of 1,4-dioxane and perfluorinated compounds, we fully support taking whatever measures are necessary to ensure our customers continue to have a drinking water supply that is among the best in the country,” added SCWA chief executive officer Jeffrey W. Szabo. “But, as we’ve also said, these regulations come at a high cost. We need the funds that will be raised by the quarterly fee to develop the treatment systems to meet the new standards.”

SCWA has proactively addressed 1,4-dioxane, PFOS and PFOA for years, testing for the compounds before being required to do so and, in the case of 1,4-dioxane, developing the first AOP treatment system approved for use by New York State; that system is already in operation at an SCWA well field in Central Islip. SCWA has also taken proactive measures to hook up residents using private wells impacted by PFOS and PFOA to public water in numerous communities.

SCWA also initiated litigation in two separate actions against the manufacturers responsible for polluting Long Island’s groundwater with 1,4-dioxane, PFOS and PFOA, seeking to recover the costs of treating contaminated water to remove the chemicals from SCWA wells. Resolution of those cases, though, could take years, and SCWA needs to install treatment now. Therefore, it needs to obtain treatment costs from the new fee.

The PFOA/PFOS complaint charges that the 3M Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard Inc., Tyco Fire Products LP and National Foam Inc. knew or should have known that the firefighting foam they made, distributed or sold is dangerous to human health and contains unique characteristics that cause extensive and persistent environmental contamination. The 1,4-dioxane complaint includes the same claims against Dow Chemical Company, Ferro Corporation, Vulcan Materials Corporation, Proctor & Gamble and Shell Oil Company in regard to their products—primarily industrial degreasers, laundry detergents and other household products.

SCWA in 2019 has also submitted 12 applications for state grant funding under the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act to mitigate the cost of developing 17 AOP treatment systems at SCWA well fields.

The Suffolk County Water Authority is an independent public-benefit corporation operating under the authority of the Public Authorities Law of the State of New York. Serving approximately 1.2 million Suffolk County residents, the Authority operates without taxing power on a not-for-profit basis. n


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