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Thiele: Stony Brook center to look at water contamination

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The New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University is focusing on developing and evaluating methods of removing contaminants from drinking water supplies with an initial focus on 1,4-dioxane.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) announced the effort, saying it represents the initial phase of a state-sponsored multi-year program to proactively address emerging contaminants in drinking water. The Center for Clean Water Technology is soliciting proposals from water providers in the state to install and test pilot-scale advanced water treatment technologies to remove 1,4-dioxane from drinking water. The deadline for submissions ins December 15.

The aim of the effort is for the center to develop and commercialize affordable, high performance drinking water quality protection and restoration technologies that are suitable for widespread deployment, Mr. Thiele said.

Last June, the Reporter wrote about concerns pertaining to 1,4-dioxane with particular emphasis on Suffolk County where higher levels of 1,4-dioxane had been detected than in the rest of the state.

Suffolk County Water Authority has been testing for the substance since 2003. Its data shows that 1,4-dioxane has been detected in about 272 public water supply wells. The county has been blending water from various sources to try to dilute the concentration.

Studies among people whose occupations exposed them to 1,4-dioxane showed symptoms of nausea, drowsiness, headaches, and eye, nose and throat irritations. Liver and kidney effects were observed in laboratory animals after long-term exposure to water tainted with the substance. Some animals developed cancer, according to a June 2015 Suffolk County Department of Health Services report.

The report warned that adverse health effects in animals after high levels of exposure may pose a risk to humans exposed to lower levels of 1,4-dioxane.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies 1,4-dioxane “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” based on the results of animal studies, the report said.

But until now, the State Health Department had not set any standard for 1,4-dioxane, but is reviewing the substance to determine if a standard should be set.

Although Shelter Island doesn’t draw its water from the county, The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non profit group of scientists, lawyers and communications experts aiming to protect human health warned that drinking water from wells such as those on Shelter Island could become affected through wastewater discharges and other toxic wastes.

Islanders concerned about their private wells can have the water tested under the stated Environmental Laboratory Approval Program. Two labs are suggested for the Island, Holbrook’s Long Island Analytical Laboratories and Pace Analytical Services in Melville. The former has been doing the recent testing of water samples from Fresh Pond.

Even if well water shows no presence of 1,4-dioxane, users of various personal care and household products could be contributing to an eventual problem, according to EWG. That’s because many products that contain 1,4-dioxane that is being washed down drains. The substance doesn’t dissolve readily, but stays until removed, according to the EWG study.

Complicating the problem is that many shampoos, body wash gels or cleaning products, paint strippers or other products that contain 1,4-dioxane don’t list it as an ingredient.

The EWG advises avoiding products that contain polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, polyoxynolethylene and chemicals ending in “eth” or “oxynol.” The group also recommends that consumers let legislators know their concerns to move the EPA to take a hard line, banning the use of 1,4-dioxane.

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