Long Island’s aquifers are uniquely precious resources, providing drinking water to over 2.6 million New Yorkers. In 1978, the US EPA designated Long Island as the nation’s first federally protected aquifer because of its unique status in providing a principal source of drinking water for which there is no alternative source. This bill ensures that in especially important areas of Long Island’s water supply, mining operations are prohibited from operating where groundwater contamination has occurred.
There are nine Special Groundwater Protection Areas on Long Island, watershed recharge
areas important for the maintenance of large volumes of high-quality groundwater. These areas deserve especially stringent protections to ensure clean and safe drinking water for residents of Long Island.
The Sand Land mine in Noyac, New York is a perfect example of why this legislation is necessary. In June 2018, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services found elevated levels of chemicals, including iron and manganese, at the mine site and concluded that the mine was responsible for the contamination. Despite this evidence, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reached a settlement with the mine owners to allow operations to continue for another eight years before the mine must shut down.
Science must drive environmental policy decision-making, and where a local government has rigorously documented a threat to drinking water, there should be legal tools to prevent any polluting activities from continuing. That is exactly what this bill accomplishes.
This bill amends the Environmental Conservation Law, in relation to mining in counties with a population of one million or more relying on a sole source aquifer as its primary drinking water source, by prohibiting such activities where contamination to groundwater or drinking water on site or attributable to the site exceeds state or federal drinking water or groundwater standards.