Concerned about the impacts on purity and safety of drinking water in the Town of Hempstead and across Long Island, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino is calling on the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to halt any plans to re-open dormant groundwater wells in southeastern Queens. Santino detailed his concerns in a letter to the DEP, sent in advance of a public meeting to be held on June 21st about the agency’s plan to conduct an environmental review on the potential to reopen the wells.
Santino is calling on New York City to stay away from the wells, which tap into aquifers that provide drinking water to more than 3 million residents in Nassau and Suffolk counties, including over 760,000 residents in America’s largest township of Hempstead Town. Concerns raised by local officials include the possible intrusion of saltwater into freshwater supplies, the redirection of harmful plumes to other parts of the groundwater system and other disruptions of Long Island’s groundwater supply.
“I want to send a simple, yet strong message to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, ‘don’t foul our water,’” Santino said. “Restarting the dormant wells in neighboring Queens could harm our drinking water. This decision puts the health and safety of more than 3 million Long Islanders at stake.”
The DEP holds permits to use the 68 former Jamaica Water Service wells, which have not been in use since 2007. But, with the permits set to expire at the end of this year, the DEP must file a renewal request with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation by the end of November to retain the rights to use the wells. According to a Newsday report published on June 3, 2017, though there are no immediate plans to re-open the wells, the DEP is planning to conduct an environmental review and is seeking to renew its existing permit.
As recently as three years ago, New York City sought authority to use 20 of the 68 Queens wells while making repairs to its existing reservoir water system, but the city’s plan was ultimately abandoned.
“Through strict standards and methods, the Town of Hempstead, along with private providers and public water districts, work hard to provide clean and safe drinking water to hundreds of thousands of residents,” Santino said. “Re-opening these long dormant wells in Queens could open up our source of groundwater to potentially harmful threats, which could be detrimental to the future of Hempstead Town and our region. We ask New York City to abandon any plans or studies regarding the restarting of the groundwater wells in Queens for the sake of generations of families in America’s largest township and across Long Island.”