The Long Island Clean Water Partnership: Making Water a Top Priority for all East Enders

Symbolically, summer starts this weekend, and New Yorkers are flocking east to the bucolic end of Long Island. In advance of Memorial Day weekend, The Moore Charitable Foundation (Robin’s Island Foundation) team met up in the North Fork – an area dear to our founder Louis Bacon –  with four partners, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), Group for the East End (GFEE), New Suffolk Waterfront Fund (NSWF) and the Peconic Land Trust (PLT) to discuss seasonal and year-round issues. Water is of course the critical subject of our times. The dilemma is not only what to do about its quality and quantity. It’s about how to make all kinds of people with differing connections and attention spans pay attention to it.

long island -2With that in mind, this post is dedicated to an innovative partnership connecting dozens of organizations in support of clean water: The Long Island Clean Water Partnership (LICWP), founded in 2013 in response to the increasing pollution in Long Island’s water, which threatens the longevity of the rich ecosystem of the bays, estuaries and coastal areas, and the health and quality of life of all residents. Working with leading conservation organizations across Long Island, LICWP is focused on transforming sewage management (a major source of water pollution on the East End), improving clean-up of hazardous waste, eliminating pesticides and fertilizers from drinking water, strengthening disposal requirements for pharmaceuticals and household hazardous materials, protecting undeveloped land, and creating a management entity with the sole purpose of improving Long Island’s water quality.

The “Frequently Asked Questions” section of their website, published below, covers why the water of Long Island is particularly vulnerable, and some of the steps we need to take to protect it. Net net: Get involved with the Partnership. Once a member, the website will allow you to send a letter to your elected officials asking them to make clean water a priority. Partners can stay informed on Facebook and Twitter. Lastly, everyone – those who love the East End on weekends, between May and September, or every day of the year – should spread the word and talk about these issues with family, friends and fellow Long Islanders. We encourage you to do your part to protect the water of this true gem of New York State.

Q: What is the Long Island Clean Water Partnership?

A: The Clean Water Partnership is a coalition of Long Island’s leading conservation organizations including Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Group for the East End, Long Island Pine Barrens Society and The Nature Conservancy. Together, we are partnering and collaborating with scientists, public officials, community members, and a number of other stakeholders in order to implement solutions to the decline in water quality on Long Island.

Q: What is an aquifer?

A: Aquifer means “water bearing rock”. It is an underground layer of unconsolidated rock and soil materials that carry and transmit groundwater. Long Island has a federally designated sole-source aquifer which means that 100% of our drinking water for 2.8 million Long Islanders in Nassau and Suffolk Counties comes from the groundwater.

Q: How is our drinking water connected to our surface waters- our bays and estuaries?

A: Drinking water and surface waters share a vital connection. On Long Island, underground aquifers store our only source of fresh drinking water for Nassau and Suffolk Counties. These aquifers are not static; they slowly flow from high ground to low, recharged by rainfall, and they supply the majority of fresh water entering our streams, lakes, and bays.

Q: What evidence is there that water quality on Long Island is declining?

A: Science conclusively shows deteriorating water quality in Long Island’s groundwater. Nitrogen pollution from sewage, most notably aging sewer and septic systems, flows from our aquifers into our bays and harbors, damaging salt marshes, causing harmful algae blooms, reducing fish and shellfish populations and closing our beaches. Additionally, 117 pesticides have been detected in our groundwater as well as toxic and volatile organic compounds, and pharmaceutical drugs.

Q: Who is in charge of protecting Long Island’s water and why are they failing to do so?

A: Many government agencies share responsibility for protecting Long Island’s waters resources. As a result, water quality protection has never been effectively centralized. No single agency has final responsibility or public accountability for restoring and maintaining clean water. Water quality standards, rules, regulations, policies and programs derive from an array of local, regional, state and federal agencies. For example, in Nassau County alone, 40 separate entities distribute drinking water.

Q: How does the Partnership propose Long Island fund water quality improvement?

A: There are many ways to fund water quality improvement: tax credits, upgrade incentives, sales tax, bond act, water rate adjustments and many more. Once new water quality standards are set and enforcement has been provided for, we’ll know what funding mechanisms make the most sense. One thing’s for sure: the cost of fixing the water problem will be far less than the cost of destroying Long Island’s drinking water and surface waters.

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