Sep 16, 2011

Volatile Organic Compounds Found in Major Drinking Water Wells in New York

Eleven wells are found to be contaminated, adding areas of Long Island to the EPA’s Superfund list

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its decision to add areas of Hicksville, New Cassel, Westbury, Hempstead and Salisbury in Nassau County, NY, to the Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites.

Groundwater throughout these areas is contaminated with harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The Magothy aquifer, Nassau County’s primary source of drinking water, has been impacted by the contamination.

Residents of the affected towns are currently receiving drinking water that is being treated to remove the VOCs. EPA proposed to add the site to the Superfund list in March 2011 and received and considered public comments on its proposal before making its final decision.

VOCs are often used as ingredients in paint, solvents, aerosol sprays, cleaners, disinfectants, automotive products and dry cleaning fluids. Repeated and direct exposure to VOCs can cause serious health effects including damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) had examined a number of the contaminated areas of groundwater individually. New York officials ultimately determined that the contamination would be better addressed as one large site and in December 2010 referred the site to EPA for inclusion on the Superfund list. EPA conducted an initial investigation of the site.

A variety of past industrial and commercial activities in the area are believed to have caused the groundwater contamination, although investigations by NYSDEC and EPA have yet to identify all of the specific sources contaminating the wells.