Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his plan to combat water pollution in New York, just days after the Environmental Protection Agency warned the state to reduce nitrogen levels in the Long Island Sound. The controversy comes amidst a continued spotlight on water issues, following the ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Governor Cuomo’s plan would combat pollutants through four unique initiatives. First, the state would create a “Water Quality Rapid Response Team.” This team would operate throughout the state, addressing concerns raised by citizens in a timely manner. It would also draft a comprehensive plan of action to present to the governor. Second, the state will study samples from the Northrop Grumman Plume to identify sources of contamination.
For the third item in his plan, Cuomo has directed the Department of Environmental Conservation to propose draft regulations for mulch facilities. These new stipulations, which the DEC will open for public comment, will require facilities to institute runoff management measures, and restrict the amount of material in storage.
The last item on the list will deal specifically with Long Island’s long-standing issues. According to the EPA, the state’s efforts to reduce nitrogen levels in the famous – and often sullied – Long Island Sound have fallen short of real change. To this end, Governor Cuomo will pledge $5.7 million to a study on managing Long Island’s groundwater.
Pollution from outdated septic and sewage systems has long plagued Long Islands’ waterways, and experts have warned of a growing catastrophe. Denizens of Long Island depend on increasingly contaminated aquifers for their drinking water, and local sea life has taken a blow from the increase in nitrogen. High levels of nitrogen can render bodies of water uninhabitable by reducing oxygen levels. In addition to waste management issues, the EPA has urged New York State to focus on the loss of aquatic life, in particular eel grass beds, which play a crucial role not only in marine health, but the planet’s as well.
In addition to Long Island, New York’s precarious water quality has garnered attention in Hoosick Falls, a village in Rensselaer County where a study of the water supply revealed high levels of PFOA, a chemical once used to make teflon. The State has dispatched representatives from the Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation for blood testing. Cuomo has further sent the Department of Financial Services to answer homeowners’ inquiries on insurance and mortgage loans.