By Caitlyn Cardetti
The importance of the quality and safety of the water we drink cannot be understated. Here on Long Island, the water that flows from each and every faucet in our homes comes solely from underground aquifers stored right beneath our feet. This makes protecting our aquifers here on Long Island critical for our community's well-being. The organization Science Advocacy Long Island (SALI) recently hosted a public forum on November 3rd on ensuring water quality on LI, bringing together both local policy makers and scientists.
This non-partisan forum was hosted at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University and included NY Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine. Both reflected on how current and past policy effects our water quality. Supervisor Romaine highlighted the Long Island 208 Study on groundwater that detailed connections between LI's land use, drinking water quality, and surface water quality, and how 40 years later, we still have not implemented all the recommendations of that study. He then discussed how Hurricane Sandy brought attention to marsh loss and nitrogen pollution in our water. Relief funds from Sandy helped fund the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University.
Ronald Busciolano, a Supervisory Hydrologist at the Coram Program Office of the U.S. Geological Survey New York Water Science Center updated the audience on the status of Long Island hydrological conditions and the USGS Sustainability Project. For the past few years, Long Island has been experiencing a drought, evidenced by the decreasing ground water levels, which is mainly due to lack of precipitation. Simply put, we need rain to replenish our aquifers. While we may not be able to make it rain, we can prevent the water we do have from being contaminated. The materials on our land will eventually enter our groundwater, which is also our drinking water. A major pollutant of our water is nitrogen, and 50-75% of that contamination comes from LI households.
Our final two panelists were Dr. Chris Gobler, Co-Director and Dr. Arjun Venkatesan, Research Scientist of the NYS Center of Clean Water. The main goals of the Center are to identify areas of water quality impairment and develop new and creative technologies to remove these contaminants from water. Dr. Gobler described one such new technology, a nitrogen-removing biofilter, and how it is currently being tested. Dr. Venkatesan discussed 'contaminants of emerging concern', which are chemicals that occur in the environment but are not currently regulated, such as the industrial solvent 1,4-Dioxane.
Dr. Miriam Fein created SALI with the mission to bring together scientists and supporters of science from all backgrounds to advocate for policies supported by evidence-based research and to encourage public engagement with science. In effort to accomplish this mission, SALI will be hosting a series of public forums on health, environmental, and science policy issues. This inaugural forum was well-received by the community, and in attendance were Suffolk County legislators Kara Hahn and Leslie Kennedy, Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr., and Dr. Elaine DiMasi, a 2018 candidate for Congress in NY-1. The scientific talks are available on SALI's YouTube channel.