LEAD IN OUR WATER


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March 21, 2017 Update


After reviewing and submitting thousands of pages of testimony and exhibits, Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky, as directors of LI CAWS and as President of the North and Central Merrick Civic Association ("NCMCA"), requested and were granted a hearing to examine New York American Water's ("NYAW") and the Department of Public Service's ("DPS") witnesses in Albany on Wednesday, March 8.


Since 39.74% of NYAW's projected revenue pays for taxes on its properties; since it passes 100% of its property tax burden onto its ratepayers, making up 40-55% of our water bill; since NYAW projects a 24% increase in property taxes over the next four years; and since only10% of us who have NYAW pay these taxes that benefit all of Nassau County, while the other 90% do not pay taxes on their municipal utility properties; the brunt of our argument addressed this inequity.


Most of the 1500 comments made to the DPS addressed property taxes, yet not one elected official mentioned taxes. To oppose a rate hike and not the major reason for the hike leads one to wonder why. Could it be that the county, town or village does not want to give up what totals $36 million in taxes? Taxes that benefit everyone, but paid by very few. Is that even constitutional?


 John, Meta Mereday, Susan Mundy and Janet Poretsky​ 


March 21, 2017 Update


After reviewing and submitting thousands of pages of testimony and exhibits, Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky, as directors of LI CAWS and as President of the North and Central Merrick Civic Association ("NCMCA"), requested and were granted a hearing to examine New York American Water's ("NYAW") and the Department of Public Service's ("DPS") witnesses in Albany on Wednesday, March 8.



Since 39.74% of NYAW's projected revenue pays for taxes on its properties; since it passes 100% of its property tax burden onto its ratepayers, making up 40-55% of our water bill; since NYAW projects a 24% increase in property taxes over the next four years; and since only10% of us who have NYAW pay these taxes that benefit all of Nassau County, while the other 90% do not pay taxes on their municipal utility properties; the brunt of our argument addressed this inequity.



Most of the 1500 comments made to the DPS addressed property taxes, yet not one elected official mentioned taxes. To oppose a rate hike and not the major reason for the hike leads one to wonder why. Could it be that the county, town or village does not want to give up what totals $36 million in taxes? Taxes that benefit everyone, but paid by very few. Is that even constitutional?

It is important to understand that the original $2.7 million revenue request was for a one year rate plan.  Our legislator mistakenly compared the one year proposal with the four-year rate plan that is the subject of this proceeding. Facts are that in Year One, the initial revenue request of $2.7 million was substantially lowered to $330,000 - quite a savings to ratepayers over NYAW's initial request. However, CAWS has opposed any rate increase and is the only party that submitted papers in opposition to this rate proposal.


It should be noted that after eight months of arguments against NYAW's proposal to raise our rates, we had some successes. NYAW withdrew its request for reimbursement of $4.5 million for a research and development project. Further, CAWS argued that ratepayers should not fund future utility acquisitions and successfully had such acquisitions removed from this proposal. Further, since over 3,000 company-owned pipes are made of lead, CAWS insisted that a lead-removal policy be included in this proposal. And, since tens of thousands of homes in its district have lead pipes that are owned by the homeowners, CAWS also made sure that the proposal included a mechanism for removal of lead pipes owned by the ratepayer.


Conclusion


We are awaiting the Judge's ruling on the proposal. We'd like to thank all those who helped us fight the inequity of corporate v. public water.  Over 1200 posts on its website, over 300 signatures on petitions, over 500 people attending and testifying at the hearings have brought attention to these inequities. Whatever the result, please know that this is just one phase of our fight for affordable water.  Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that the judges do the right thing. In any event, with your help, we will move forward with the next phase.

When the Towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay and Nassau legislators shut the water authority that could have taken over NYAW, they cited a study that found the takeover would not save money.  But the study ASSUMED that the public takeover would still require we, the ratepayers, to pay property taxes!  That’s right.  Our officials do not want to lose tax receipts from NYAW that are passed to us, the unfortunate NYAW customer.  This is unfair and illegal. 

And get this.  NYAW files tax grievances to get refunds for over-assessments or over charges of property taxes.  One such reduction is now subject to approval by the PSC.  NYAW won a reduction of almost $1 million for garbage taxes paid in Town of Oyster Bay.  We, the ratepayers, paid 100% of this tax.  Yet, our state PSC proposes that the 12% of the refund go to NYAW as profit for their shareholders and 38% to pay for their attorneys.  The attorneys received hourly rates and not the customary contingency payments.  The ratepayers who footed 100% of the property tax bill will only get 50% of the refund.  What is wrong with this?

The PSC staff refuses to consider the legality of these property tax payments.  Instead, they want to only consider NYAW’s requests for profit and a rate increase for infrastructure improvements.  Yet, the current increase and refund proposal are largely due to property taxes.

We need to demand our state officials to act on our behalf.  Stop charging us property taxes for water provider property when NO OTHER COUNTY resident pays these property taxes.  Moreover, do not let NYAW profit on refunds of our property tax payments. 


Over 200 people attended the hearing in Wantagh and expressed their outrage over the quality and cost of their water. However, no public comment hearing was held in the Sea Cliff District.


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CAWS is fighting this rate hike on several grounds. Not only is it unconscionable to request nearly 10% more from us in this economy, but it's grossly unfair that our neighbors on public water pay a fraction of what we pay to a private corporation. The reason for that is threefold.


First, over 30% of our water bill pays NYAW's property taxes. Our neighbors who get their water from the Town of Hempstead do not pay taxes on the Town's property.  Even though NYAW serves only about 20% of Nassau residents, through our water bill, we pay over $12 million in town and county taxes that go into Hempstead's and Nassau's general funds. It's not only unfair, but may be unconstitutional that we are paying a tax that 80% of Nassau residents don't have to pay. Further, residents on public water are protected under the NYS Tax Cap Law, which this year is capped at .012%.  Private corporations do not have to abide by the same restrictions.


Second, NYAW stockholders are allowed to make nearly 8% profit off of us. Residents with public water pay only to operate and maintain its system and a nominal usage charge - no taxes, no profit.


Third, NYAW customers pay for capital projects over a short 3-5-year rate period, while public water districts have low-interest 20-30 year municipal bonds that pay for its capital improvements, which results in substantially lower water bills.


And perhaps the most egregious cost that taxpayers must pay is an $800 annual fee our fire districts are charged to lease a single fire hydrant from NYAW as compared to $75 charged by the Town of Hempstead. And yet fire district cannot raise taxes above the tax cap.


CAWS is fighting these inequities and going through NYAW projects with a fine-toothed comb. CAWS does not believe we should fund its $4.5 million research and development project, its new office building in Merrick or its acquisition of more water districts. Further, CAWS wants to ensure that good projects move forward. For example, NYAW is seeking $3 million for booster pumps in Wantagh - a project that was supposed to be funded under its 2009 rate proposal; and for funds to lay new pipes along Merrick Road when that project has been scrapped.


CAWS wants to make sure that NYAW replaces over 3,000 of its company-owned lead service pipes and the indeterminable number of customer-owned lead pipes that run from the street to the home; its proposal to connect to lines that are in the path of the Grumman Plume; iron, radionuclides and other contaminants in our water; the color, taste and smell of our water, pressure, leaks and faulty meters.


It is important that the Public Service Commission hears from the community.  Please email claudia@licaws.org for more information or if you have any information that will help us in our argument.

Please post your comments on the PSC website and let American Water know your views on their proposed rate hike. ​

LEAD


Click here for a Free Lead Test


Lead has been detected in over 20 school districts on Long Island. However, since lead pipes were not banned in construction of homes until 1986, CAWS is concerned about lead in our drinking water.


There are over 3,000 company-owned lead pipes in Long Island American Water's system. It is estimated that tens of thousands of homes have lead pipes running from the street to the homes. CAWS, as the party protecting the ratepayers in American Water's rate proceeding, urged the implementation of a lead pipe program whereas American Water would notify homeowners when they learn that they have lead pipe when they are working on pipelines and offer to remove the pipes at a discounted rate.


Further, CAWS wrote the following letter to Governor Cuomo:



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SIGN A PETITION:  "STOP NYC FROM POISONING OUR WATER


NYC is again  seeking to renew its permit to reactivate its wells in Queens, NY and has drafted an Environmental Impact Statement, which is available for public comment until July 10, 2017.


CAWS Directors Claudia Borecky, as Secretary of the Coalition of Nassau Civic Associations  and Dave Denenberg, as a former Nassau County Legislator, wrote letters to the Long Island Senate and Assembly Delegation opposing New York City’s proposal to re-open its inactive wells in Jamaica, Queens back in 2015 and requested that said abandoned wells be shuttered forever and prohibited from reopening.

CAWS makes the same request today. Specifically, CAWS asks the NYC DEP to withdraw its Water Supply/Water Withdrawal renewal permit for the groundwater system in Queens, NY and allow its current permits to expire on December 31, 2017. 

Comprehensive environmental studies evince over-pumping Long Island’s aquifers leads to irreversible problems including contamination and saltwater intrusion.  Nassau, with a population of over 1.5 million, is over-pumping our aquifers as it is. It cannot sustain pumping to an additional 2 million people in Queens.  In fact, the Queens wells were initially shuttered in the early 1980's because of the threat of salt water intrusion in eastern Queens and western Nassau . To reopen them would undoubtedly produce the same result today.

The Lloyd Aquifer is the deepest and most pristine underground aquifer and the sole source of water for the barrier islands (Long Beach, Lido, Pt Lookout and Atlantic Beach). The Magothy is already contaminated in this region. The USGS reported in 2014 that due to over-pumping the Lloyd Aquifer, the Atlantic ocean was much closer to the Lloyd Aquifer than originally thought.  If  NYC were to draw water from the Lloyd Aquifer, it would surely render the barrier islands’ water undrinkable. Those residents have no alternative. They will not have water. Period.


While Nassau and Suffolk residents' water supply is totally dependent on these sole source aquifers, NYC's water supply is dependent on the Catskill, Croton and Delaware water supply systems, which are the envy of the world.  Recent corroborative studies show that NYC's surficial water systems are well-protected and sustainable. If the issue is delivery to outlying boroughs, that is not a reason to threaten sole-source aquifers.


Further, reopening the wells in Queens could change the flow of the aquifers and thereby change the flow of toxic plumes,  such as those emanating from the former Northrop Grumman Plant, contaminating the water supply to communities west of the plume.

Therefore, CAWS adamantly urges New York City to withdraw its application to renew its permit to re-open the abandoned and shuttered wells in Jamaica, Queens and that the State rule that these wells be forever prohibited from re-opening.

 

Please tell NYC to “Stop Poisoning Our Water” by emailing EIScomments@dep.nyc.gov.  The public comment period ends July 10, 2017.

NYC TO REOPEN

WELLS IN QUEENS.

LI CLEAN AIR WATER AND SOIL

CONTAMINANTS IN OUR WATER

Letter to .Governor Andrew Cuomo
NYS Capitol Building
Albany, NY  12224

Re:  Lead in our Water

Dear Governor Cuomo:

The health and safety of our communities should be everyone's top priority. Yet, until recently, health and environmental agencies apparently have not made the presence of lead in our water a priority. Recent  testing of lead in our schools shows an alarming presence of lead in many school districts. Exposure of children to lead in water at their schools is a huge problem - but what about at their homes? If the school water is contaminated, that is the same supply as the homes in the area. LI CAWS is very concerned with the presence of lead, not only in our schools' water, but in our homes as well. 

 Lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in young children. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, like the kidneys, nerves and blood.  Lead may also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and in extreme cases, death. (HUD.Gov.)  

Lead paints have been taken off the market since1978.  Title 10, Article 13, Section 1373 of the NYS Public Health Law regulates methods of handling lead paint in homes, includingencapsulation, replacement, enclosure, or removal. Yet, somehow, testing our water supply for lead has been haphazard, uncoordinated and ineffective. In Nassau, for example, the Dept. of Health failed to test underground injection wells for years (2010-2014).

Now, because of the health disaster in Flint, Michigan due to lead in its water, lead in our drinking water is finally being taken seriously. Our NYS Legislature recently passed legislation requiring school districts to test for lead in their drinking water. Twenty school districts on Long Island were reported to have excessive levels of lead in their drinking water. LI CAWS believes it to be even more widespread. But children, and everyone else, are more exposed to water in their homes.  And if the school water is contaminated, it stands to reason that nearby homes may have lead contamination in their water as well. 

In a May 19, 2016 email to parents, the Bellmore School District reported that lead that exceeded EPA's recommended levels was found in two sources of water at Shore Road School.  Said sources were taken immediately offline and replaced.  However, since the Bellmore School District was NOT even included in the 20 school districts cited by Newsday, we question if this problem is even more widespread than is being reported.

On June 29, 2016, CNN reported that more than 5,300 water systems in America are in violation of the EPA's lead and copper rule, a federal regulation in place to safeguard America's drinking water from its aging infrastructure. According to CNN's Report, more than 18 million Americans live in communities where water utilities are in violation of the law. CNN's chart indicates that Long Island American Water, as well as other water districts on Long Island violate federal regulations. Common violations include failure to properly test water for lead, failure to report contamination to residents, and failure to treat water properly to avoid lead contamination. "Among the bad practices adopted by water utilities: selectively testing homes that are unlikely to have high levels of lead, asking residents to "pre-flush" their taps, and taking water samples "slowly," which reduces lead levels."

In a May 12, 2016 telephone conversation with Michael Nofi, Water Quality Manager for New York American Water, we were advised that there are homes in our service area that still have lead pipes carrying drinking water from the main pipelines to their homes.  And not one of these homeowners is aware that they are getting their drinking water from lead pipes. Given Nassau County's 18 water districts and a private water supplier, no one is coordinating efforts to test and control this problem.

In furtherance to NYS' laws to prevent lead poisoning, CAWS demands that NYS strengthen its Public Health Laws to regulate, not only testing and abating lead in our schools' water, but in ALL households in New York in the same manner in which it regulates lead paint. Is the problem from old water pipes or is the problem from contamination of the water supply itself?  Without real testing and monitoring, we cannot identify the areas of concern or indeed, the problem.

Further, CAWS demands that all public and private water suppliers in New York state notify residents within their territories of any and all lead pipes that supply their homes with drinking water. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) or Department of Health (DOH) must take responsibility to implement a testing program designed to test, evaluate and analyze the problem, otherwise there will never be an actual solution.

Very truly yours,

Claudia Borecky and Dave DenenbergDirectorsType your paragraph here.

1,4 Dioxane


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) Lifetime Cancer Risk Guidelines for drinking water determined that 1,4­Dioxane is likely to be carcinogenic when found in our drinking water at levels above 0.35µg/L (micrograms per Liter).  New York American Water (“NYAW”) in its Water Quality Report indicates that 1.35 µg/L of 1,4-Dioxane has been found in its Merrick District, which is significantly more than the standard set by the EPA.  The Merrick District has 16 wells in Merrick, Bellmore, N. Bellmore, Wantagh, Seaford, Massapequa, Massapequa Park, Levittown and S. Farmingdale. The Water Quality Report does not indicate the test results for each of the 16 wells so it is not clear where the high levels of 1,4-Dioxane was found. LI Clean Air Water & Soil (“CAWS”) is concerned about current and future levels of 1,4-Dioxane in our drinking wells.

The chemical has been linked to tumors of the liver, kidneys, and nasal cavity. Originally,1,4­dioxane was used as an industrial solvent stabilizer and could be found widely in paints, primers, varnishes, degreasers, and inks. Groundwater plumes that contain the chemical Trichloroethane (TCA), likely also contain 1,4-Dioxane.  Since there are over 50 Superfund sites on Long Island that contain TCA and since 1,4-Dioxane travels rather quickly through soil and water. LI Clean Air Water and Soil is concerned about current and future levels of 1,4-Dioxane in our drinking wells. 

The Hidden Carcinogen in Everyday Products


Since 1,4­Dioxane is a byproduct of a manufacturing process called ethoxylation, it is not listed on the labels of household products. Approximately 46% of personal care products, including detergents, dishwashing soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, deodorants, body lotions, baby wipes and baby shampoos have 1,4-Dioxane.  It can also be found in pesticides and packaging materials. Some laundry detergents have been found to have the highest levels of 1,4-Dioxane, with levels of a50 parts per million, a concentration equivalent to over 100,000 times the EPA's Cancer Risk Guideline for drinking water.

Consumers can look for the 'ethoxylated' ingredients, which may indicate the presence of 1,4­dioxane. The names of those ingredients often include "­eth" or "­oxynol" in part of their names, such as "phenoxyethanol." Two of the most common 1,4-dioxane contaminants are “sodium laureth sulfate” and "potassium laureth phosphate". 

The FDA needs to require the removal of this chemical; it should not be a voluntary option. Here is a more extensive list of commonly used ethoxylated ingredients:

Anything with "PEG" Polyethylene
Polyethylene glycol
Polyoxyethylene
Polysorbate­20
Polysorbate­60
Polysorbate­80
Sodium laureth sulfate
Potassium laureth phosphate
Myreth
Oleth
Ceteareth
Steareth
Phenoxyethanol

Currently there is no federal or state drinking water standard specifically for 1,4­dioxane. In the absence of an established federal drinking water standard, the allowable level in drinking water falls to a default of  50.0 µg/L (or parts per billion), which is grossly inadequate to protect public health.