Suffolk County Water Authority Chairman James F. Gaughran, on his last day as chairman before transitioning to his new role as a state senator in January called for state legislation that would provide greater assurance that polluters of Long Island’s aquifer system would be held accountable for their actions.
Gaughran, joined by other elected officials and water district superintendents supporting the initiative, will seek an amendment to state Civil Practice Law and Rules that would provide a clear statute of limitations regarding incidents of pollution. This, he said, will eliminate nebulous language that could allow polluters to escape justice.
Similar legislation has been taken up by State Senator Ken LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr.
"We need to ensure that if a company pollutes Long Island’s greatest natural resource, its sole source drinking water supply, that company—and not Long Island ratepayers—is going to pay the full cost of cleaning up the mess," Gaughran said.
"The emergence of contaminants in our drinking water supply and their harmful effects are becoming an increasingly prevalent, and unacceptable, reality," said Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. "The bill I introduced with Senator LaValle ensures that the costs associated with clean up and protection of our aquifer will be shouldered by the polluters, not the public. It makes it clear that nothing will limit a public water supplier's right to bring an action to abate an imminent threat of contamination or recover costs associated with an action."
Senator Ken LaValle said, "It’s important that we continue to address any degradation of our aquifer and ensure clean water in the future. I have been working on this issue with the Suffolk County Water Authority seeking to provide the necessary legal tools to safeguard and protect our most valuable asset. It is my hope that with bipartisan support we will realize that goal in the upcoming legislative session."
Ty Fuller, Chairman of the Long Island Water Conference said, "This legislation is vital to holding polluters of our water supply accountable. The Long Island Water Conference supports this measure as contamination is too often found after the statute of limitations have run out, leaving the burden of clean up and its expense to the local water provider and its ratepayers. Turning this legislation into law would provide the protection needed to ensure the obligation and cost of any contamination is born by the responsible party."
Dick Amper, President of the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum, said "Clean drinking water is a basic need for Long Islanders. As public water authorities work to root out harmful contaminants from our drinking water, those responsible for illegal dumping and other contamination should bear responsibility for the cost of treatment, not taxpayers. I thank State Senator-Elect Gaughran for this important legislation to protect taxpayers from the expensive burden of cleaning contamination from our water."
The press conference was held at the location of SCWA’s Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) treatment system to remove 1,4-dioxane from groundwater, the first such treatment system in New York State. The AOP system is located at SCWA’s Commercial Boulevard, Central Islip pump station.