The Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution to create a Long Island Commission on Aquifer Protection, a joint Nassau/Suffolk initiative that would assess threats to the sole source aquifer that provides our drinking water and recommend measures to protect it for future generations.
If approved by the Nassau Legislature and signed into law by each county’s executive branch, the commission would be comprised of representatives of Nassau and Suffolk water suppliers, as well as the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Nassau and Suffolk County Health Departments and United States Geologic Survey, among others. The focus of the group would be to address groundwater issues facing both counties and to chart a coordinated approach to solving the issues identified. The idea for the commission was formulated by Suffolk County Water Authority Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey W. Szabo and championed by Suffolk Legislator William Spencer and the Long Island Water Conference.
“This commission would embrace an island-wide approach to aquifer protection, an essential component to the successful management of our most vital natural resource,” said Szabo. “The increasing levels of some contaminants in our aquifer system make it clear that we need to begin this coordinated approach sooner rather than later.”
According to Szabo, the work performed by the commission could serve as the scientific underpinning for any board or agency formed at a later date with the power to enact protections of the aquifer system.
“We would view the creation of other such entities by the state or other level of government as a welcome addition,” Szabo said. “But we can’t wait and see if such an entity is ever created. LICAP, if signed into law, is ready to begin its important work right away.”
LICAP would meet at least quarterly, or more often if agreed to by its members. Members will receive no salary or compensation for their services. The commission will be required to provide a “State of the Aquifer” report within one year of its first meeting, and provide annual updates to the report. The commission will be required to hold at least one public hearing per year in each county to solicit information necessary for the report from members of the public and organizations involved in groundwater research, management and advocacy. Additionally, within three years of the issuance of the report, the commission will be required to issue a Groundwater Resources Management Plan.
The commission will also establish two standing committees, the 2040 Water Resources and Infrastructure Subcommittee and the Water Resource Opportunities Subcommittee to identify long-term and short-term risks to groundwater resources.
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.