Federal Judge Orders Suffolk to Clean Prohibited Wastewater Areas, Pay Fine for Violating Safe Drinking Water Act

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Federal Judge Orders Suffolk to Clean Prohibited Wastewater Areas, Pay Fine for Violating Safe Drinking Water Act

A federal judge ordered Suffolk County to clean up wastewater areas that were polluting aquifers that provide drinking water to Long Islanders and fined the county for the years of contamination, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace announced Wednesday.

The consent decree requires Suffolk to close its prohibited large capacity cesspools and motor vehicle waste disposal wells, which will cost about $7.02 million, and pay a fine of $200,000 for violating the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which made it law that the areas of contamination be closed by 2005 and 2008, respectively.

“Today’s consent judgment will protect the residents of Suffolk County and Long Island’s drinking water from harmful nutrient pollution which poses a risk both to the public health and the natural environment,” Peace said.  “This office will continue to vigorously enforce violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act to protect the public from contamination of its water supply and promote environmental justice.”

In a statement emailed to the Press, Deputy County Executive Peter Scully seemed to shift blame for the water pollution to past administrations.

“The county is pleased to have resolved these legacy issues and appreciates the EPA’s [the Environmental Protection Agency’s] having acknowledged that Suffolk County has become recognized as a leader in the use of advanced technologies at its parks facilities to protect water quality,” Scully said.

Prior to the government’s action, Suffolk had closed one motor vehicle waste disposal well. The county now has 30 days to close those that remain. The large capacity cesspools will be closed on a phased schedule.

“This agreement with Suffolk County is a major achievement that will help protect the drinking water of millions of Long Islanders from the harmful impacts of large capacity cesspools and waste disposal wells,” said Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “These types of underground injection wells can pollute groundwater and endanger public health and the environment. EPA is committed to enforcing the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure that all communities have access to clean water.”

The disposal areas in Suffolk pose a risk to public health on Long Island because it contaminates the underground drinking water, and Long Island has a sole source aquifer for its drinking water, according to the EPA.