Ready For The ‘New’ Contaminants

Pictured in a pre-pandemic photo from last February are the staff and commissioners of the Carle Place Water District. From left: Commissioner Itala J. Vacchio, Assistant Superintendent James Passariello (standing), Superintendent Timothy J. Doyle, Commissioner Timothy Stellato, Commissioner Lawrence Zaino Jr. and Clerk Theresa Alexandro. Since this picture was taken, Ken Gass Jr. has replaced Zaino as commissioner.
(Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Carle Place Water District plans capital projects

Our machines have reached levels of sensitivity that are beyond human understanding.

Who can grasp what ten parts per trillion means? That’s what the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) has set as the maximum contaminant level (MCL) in municipal drinking water supplies for multisyllabic chemicals usually shortened to PFOA and PFOS. The new standards for these previously unregulated contaminants were set in August 2020.

Bill DeWitt, attorney for the Carle Place Water District (CPWD), put that unimaginable number in simpler terms.

“One part per trillion is one second in 32,000 years,” he said.

Added Superintendent Timothy J. Doyle, “And one part per billion is one second in 3,200 years.”

The water towers rises 165 feet and can hold 500,000 gallons of water. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

That second MCL is what the state set for 1,4-dioxane, a chemical that used to be ubiquitous in industrial uses and can be found in everyday products such as shampoo. Like the other two synthetic chemicals it has been shown to be harmful to human health. The federal EPA labels it as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure.”

The pair talked to the Westbury Times a few weeks after the Town of North Hempstead Board of Trustees authorized a $45.3 million bond to support a range of capital improvements in the CPWD. A good portion, however, will be used to set up treatment systems at several wells to remove the contaminants.

Doyle assured that none of the wells had exceeded the MCL for the three contaminants and the district’s water was safe to drink.

“Our water meets all current state, federal and county guidelines,” he said.

As a precaution, two wells have been taken offline. The district has enough capacity to meet all its needs, Doyle added.

To comply with new state regulations, district officials have gone ahead with a 2020-24 capital plan.

Other expenses include a new garage and a water main improvement program.

The help defray the cost of construction, which is expected to be done within five years, the district will make use of a $6.762 million state Water Infrastructure Improvement Act grant. The bond is floated through the town, and since North Hempstead has excelled credit ratings, the 20-year bond will have a 2.5 percent interest rate.

Property owners in the district pay an annual tax to the CPWD. It is difficult to determine how much homeowners will ultimately pay for the bond in extra taxes. According to a presentation slide supplied by the district and used in public meetings and town hearings, residential Class I house with a market value of $500,000, based on the 2021 tax levy, will pay about $462 per year.

The district, according to Doyle, covers about one square mile, serves about 3,200 accounts and about 9,000 customers. It owns and maintains 350 fire hydrants. It was created in 1915.

DeWitt said that the district has engaged counsel and initiated lawsuits against the manufacturers of the contaminants. It seeks damages for the cost of the treatment and remediation. The lawyers took on the case on a contingency basis, meaning that they will only get paid if the district wins its case.

Getting Regulated

DeWitt said that the federal EPA requires water suppliers all over the country to collect samples for contaminants that aren’t currently regulated that they thing might exists in the drinking water.

According to an EPA release:

EPA uses the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) program to collect data for contaminants suspected to be present in drinking water, but that do not have health-based standards set under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Every five years EPA develops a new list of UCMR contaminants, largely based on the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL).

Doyle joked that, at 61, his tower-climbing days are behind him. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

“These contaminants were on the list for UCMR 3,” DeWitt said, referring to the third set of chemicals released by the agency. “And they found that they were present in a lot of wells on Long Island and a few in upstate New York. And scattered throughout the country, but not in the same concentration it was in this area. Technically, after one of these rounds of sampling, the federal EPA would issue a round of regulations that would go across the country. In this case it didn’t happen because this was a New York State issue. So what happened is the state decided to implement these regulations. The Drinking Water Quality Council reviewed all the data and they established the criteria and the health department then implemented the rules.”

“Is the science settled as far as treatment of these contaminants?” DeWitt was asked.

“The technology to remove them is different,” DeWitt replied. “1,4-dioxane we remove with a process we call reverse oxidation. There are a bunch of different variations on that treatment. But the one that’s currently approved by the [county and state departments of health] is a process that uses hydrogen peroxide and UV light for removal of 1,4-dioxane. And then regular activated carbon at the end to quench any excess hydrogen peroxide so that it doesn’t go out into the finished product. The granular activated carbon is also effective at removing the PFOA and PFOS compounds.”

DeWitt said a lot of water suppliers on Long Island “have applied for compliance referrals. It will allow them two years to build the treatment plants. During that time, they can actually operate wells that exceed the current standard. The deferrals weren’t granted to CPWD because the wells were below the MCL. The wells were just taken out of service.”

Added Doyle, “We’re being proactive.”

“Are pharmaceuticals found in your drinking water?” the two were asked.

DeWitt said they are more of a big problem in locations that aren’t sewered, percolating into the water supply from the septic systems. Prescriptions have turned up in CPWD analysis, but at a very low level.

Given the prevalence of lawns and lawn maintenance businesses on Long Island, the district also tests for nitrogen, herbicides and fungicides, all of which can seep into the groundwater.

“Is this something that you thought would ever happen?” Doyle was asked about remediating for new contaminants.

“The water industry is always changing and evolving,” he replied. “The [federal EPA] is always looking for new contaminants. If they think it’s an issue, the local government will [regulate it].”

He added, “It’s been an experience with the pandemic. We’ve been here. We’re providing water and we’re continuing to provide water to our citizens as we have to do.”

The Tower

Doyle said the 165-foot tower was repainted almost six years ago at a cost $2 million. The paint job should last another 15-20 years, he added.  Various cell phone companies have their cell equipment and the rental helps offset the maintenance of the tank.

Asked when he last climbed to the top, he replied that it was 28 years before. Doyle, 61, said there was little treason to do so. He left it to the experts, “who check the coating system, the hatches, all the vents. They open the tank and look inside—there’s a coating system on the inside. They check to make sure everything is up to date.”

Doyle said that shutting down the tank for  the repainting made it necessary to interconnect with Westbury Water District for backup supplies.

He continued, “The tank had to be drained for maintenance. It had to be scaffolded. It was quite a project. We had to rent space from the neighbor next door in order to facilitate the work.”

The Legalese

Councilperson Viviana Russell, who represents the Westbury-Carle Place-New Cassel area on the North Hempstead board, offered the resolution to appropriate the moneys for the bond. It passed unanimously. Excerpts from the resolution:

Whereas, a map, plan and report has been prepared by D&B Engineers and Architects (D&B), engineers duly licensed by the State of New York, (herein called the “Engineers”) entitled “Report on the Need for Water Supply System Capital Improvements,” dated November 2020 (the “Engineer’s Report), for the increase and improvement of facilities of the Carle Place Water District (herein called the “District”), in the Town of North Hempstead, New York (the “Town), consisting of (i) 1,4-Dioxane and PFAS treatment at Wells lA and 2R Facility; (ii) permanent interconnection with Westbury Water District; (iii) PFAS treatment for Wells 3 and 4 Facility; (iv) construction of a new garage building at Wells 1A and 2R Facility; (v) electrical and fuel system improvements at Wells 3 and 4 Facility; (vi) Well 5 Facility diesel fuel dispensing system closure; (vii) annual Water Main Improvement Program; and (viii) meter replacement program (collectively, the “Project”), all as further described in the Engineer’s Report, at the estimated maximum cost of $45,320,000, including any ancillary or related work necessary in connection therewith; and

Whereas, following a public hearing duly called and held, the Town Board of the Town determined that it is in the public interest to increase and improve the facilities of the District, and ordered that such facilities be increased and improved.

The plan of financing includes the issuance of not to exceed $45,320,000 bonds of the Town to finance said appropriation, and the assessment, levy and collection of assessments upon the several lots and parcels of land within the District in the same manner and at the same time as other Town charges, to pay the principal of and interest on said bonds as the same shall become due and payable. Water meters have been installed and charges derived from such meters shall continue to be imposed and collected and the amounts derived therefrom may be budgeted and used to pay principal and interest on said bonds when issued. Any aid or grant funds received are authorized to be used to pay part of the cost of the project or to pay debt service on any bonds or notes issued pursuant to this project.

Information about the contaminants can be found here. Doyle can be reached at or 516-333-0540.

Sophisticated software gives Doyle a good oversight of the system. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

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