February 7, 2020 12:31 PM

To our customers:

On February 4th 2020, Governor Cuomo’s Drinking Water Quality Council met in Albany to discuss, among other topics, the impending new regulations for emerging contaminants 1,4-dioxane, PFOS and PFOA. 

The Suffolk County Water Authority is currently in the process of installing over 75 new treatment systems to destroy or remove these contaminants from our water.  SCWA is legally mandated to comply with all NYS drinking water standards, and in this case, the Drinking Water Quality Council has informed us we will have just two years (with an option to request a third year) to have these new water treatment systems operational.  This accelerated timeline will of course pose challenges, but I have confidence in the abilities of our operations staff to meet these challenges head-on. 

It is important to understand that when regulators set standards for compounds such as 1,4-dioxane, PFOS or PFOA, they are setting standards based on lifetime exposure levels, NOT acute health risks that would be a concern today.  These types of regulations are based on a consumption rate of two liters of water per day over a 70-year period. As Governor Cuomo mentioned in his statement on the subject in 2019: “We're proposing the most protective levels in the nation for three emerging contaminants to ensure we are regularly testing and fixing water systems before they ever rise to a public health risk in any part of the state.”

In order to raise the roughly $177 million in funding necessary to procure, install and operate these treatment systems, SCWA has added a $20 fee to all quarterly customer bills.  This separate charge will appear as “Water Quality Treatment Charge” on your bill and amounts to approximately 22 cents per day.  We understand that asking our customers to pay more is never a popular decision, and we have taken steps to mitigate these costs to our ratepayers such as applying for state grants ($13.3 million has been received to date) and suing the companies responsible for putting these contaminants into our water supply in the first place.

The unfortunate reality is that resolution of these lawsuits could take years, and treatment systems must be installed as soon as possible.  Should the Authority eventually be successful in court, rest assured our customers will see some form of financial relief.

It is the charge of the New York State Drinking Water Quality Council to research emerging contaminants and study the feasibility of any potential new regulations.  Two such contaminants discussed at the February 4th meeting were 1,2,3-Trichloropropane and perchlorate. 

1,2,3-TCP is currently regulated at five parts-per-billion, but this may change as experts continue to study this compound.  In 2019, a maximum contaminant level of 56 parts-per-billion was proposed for perchlorate, but no standard has been made official as of this time. 

We will continue to participate in these Drinking Water Quality Council meetings, and we are in constant contact with the New York State and Suffolk County Departments of Health.  New York State has some of the most rigorous drinking water quality standards in the country, and the announcement of these new regulations will make them even stricter, meaning SCWA will continue to provide you with some of the highest quality water you can get anywhere.  

I hope you found this update valuable in some way, and I will continue to keep you informed of any new regulatory changes that may affect SCWA.  For more information about PFOS, PFOA, 1,4-dioxane, or the Water Quality Treatment Charge please visit our website at https://www.scwa.com/about-scwa/important-information-about-your-scwa-bill/.

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.

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