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Brooklyn - Queens Aquifer System Brooklyn - Queens Aquifer System

Federal Register Notice

Volume 49, No. 16, Page 2050
Thursday, January 24, 1984
Sole Source Aquifer Determination
Aquifers Underlying Kings and Queens Counties, New York

AGENCY

Environmental Protection Agency, Region II

ACTION

Notice of determination; aquifers underlying Kings and Queens Counties, New York.

SUMMARY

Notice is hereby given that pursuant to Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (Pub. L. 93523) the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the aquifer underlying Kings and Queens Counties, New York, is the sole or principal source of drinking water for the southeastern portion of Queens County, New York, and which, if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health.

ADDRESS: The data on which these findings are based are available to the public and may be inspected during normal business hours at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Water Supply Branch, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York 10278.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Damian J. Duda, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Water Supply Branch, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York 10278.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

The Safe Drinking Water Act was enacted on December 10, 1974, Section 1424(e) of the Act states:

If the Administrator determines, on his own initiative or upon petition, that an area has an aquifer which is the sole or principal drinking water source for the area and which, if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health, he shall publish a notice of the determination in the Federal Register. After the publication of any such notice, no commitment for Federal financial assistance (through a grant, contract, loan guarantee, or otherwise) may be entered into for any project which the Administrator determines may contaminate such aquifer through a recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health, but a commitment for Federal financial assistance may, if authorized under another provision of law, be entered into to plan or design the project to assure that it will not so contaminate the aquifer.

I. Background

On June 18, 1979 the Jamaica Water Supply Company, Lake Success, New York, petitioned the Administrator to amend the Long Island (Nassau/ Suffolk) designation of June 21, 1978, 43 FR 26611 to include the aquifers under underlying Kings and Queens Counties, New York, as a sole source aquifer under the provisions of section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Public Participation

A notice of receipt of this petition, together with a request for comments was published in the Federal Register August 29, 1979, 44 FR 50649. In response to the Notice and request for comments, written comments were received from a State, and a local governmental agency. Both commenters claimed that the designation would be premature since there is an absence of final rules and regulations on the sole or principal source aquifer program under Section 1424(e). The letters further stated that New York State will be developing a ground-water management program and that the EPA should await the outcome of these studies before considering designation of the aquifer. The Agency does not agree with the letters requesting further delay since the ground water management studies referred to are not directly related to the sole source designation request. In addition, EPA had sufficient information to write a background document which serves as the basis for designation.

On October 4, 1979, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public hearing in Queens, New York City, New York to hear the views of persons interested in the Kings and Queens Aquifer issue. Two groups presented testimony at the public hearing. The first group represented the petitioner, Jamaica Water Supply Company and the second represented the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Public Water Supply. There was no representatives of the public present at the public hearing.

II. Basis for the Determination

On the basis of the information which is available to this Agency the Administrator has made the following findings, which are the basis for the determination noted above:

(1) The Kings and Queens aquifers which underly the southeastern portion of Queens County are the sole or principal source of drinking water for approximately 650,000 people in such area, which is the service area of the Jamaica Water Supply Company. In 1979, the aquifers supplied approximately 60 million gallons per day (mgd) of water from 65 wells located near the water supply franchise area of the Jamaica Water Supply Company. Current water supply treatment practice for public supplies is generally limited to disinfection for drinking purposes. There is no alternative source of drinking water supply which could replace these aquifers if they were contaminated.

While the Kings and Queens aquifers are not utilized as the sole or principal source of drinking water for the Borough of Kings or for any other portion of Queens County, the geographic boundaries of Kings and Queens Counties are the recharge zone for the aquifers underlying the southeastern portion of Queens County. The recharge zone also encompasses parts of Nassau County, New York. Aquifers underlying Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New York have already been designated as a sole or principal source aquifer under Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

(2) The aquifers under-lying Kings and Queens Counties are vulnerable to contamination through their recharge zone, particularly from leaking sewer pipes. Other sources such as pastfarming practices and present fertilization of lawns and gardens may also be significant. The area contains leaking fuel tanks and leachate from open dumps and improperly operated landfill sites all of which add to the contamination of the ground water. In addition, EPA analysis shows that further and continued withdrawal of water over and above the aquifers sustained yield would cause the salt-fresh water interface to move into the aquifers recharge zone thereby threatening the ground water quality by increasing the chloride content in the water. Since ground water contamination can be difficult or impossible to reverse, and because this aquifer is relied upon for drinking purposes by many people, contamination of the aquifer would pose a significant hazard to public health.

(3) When an aquifer has been designated as the sole or principal source of drinking water, the area in which projects may be reviewed is the area encompassed by: (1) the boundary of the designated aquifer's recharge zone, and (2) its streamflow source zone.

Section 1424(e) of the Act requires that a Federal agency may not commit funds to a project which may contaminate the aquifer system through a recharge or streamflow source zone so as to create a significant hazard to the public health. The recharge zone is that area through which water enters into the aquifer system.

The area in which projects may be review is the area encompassed by (1) The boundary of thee Buried Valley Aquifer System, and (2) its streamflow source zones.

The Administrator has determined that the recharge zone and stream-flow source zone for the aquifers underlying southeastern Queens County are defined by the outside boundary of Kings County (Borough of Brooklyn) and Queens County (Borough of Queens) in the city of New York and parts of Nassau County. Since parts of Nassau County within the recharge and streamflow source zones of the aquifers underlying southeastern Queens County are already under sole source protection as the result of the Agency's prior designation of the aquifers underlying Nassau/Suffolk Counties, today's designation will extend the area for project review to encompass projects undertaken in the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens of New York.

III. Information Utilized in This Determination

The petition, written and verbal comments submitted by the public, a detailed map of the area and independent analyses by EPA are available to the public and may be inspected during normal business hours at the office of the Environmental Protection Agency, Region II, Water Supply Branch, 26 Federal Plaza, Room 24-130, New York, N.Y. 10278.

A copy of the above documentation is also available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Waterside Mall, Public Information and Reference Unit, Room 2922, 401 M Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20460.

IV. Project Review

EPA proposed national regulations for implementing Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act on September 29, 1977, 42 FR 51620. The proposed regulations contain procedures for review of Federal financially assisted projects which could contaminate "sole or principal source" aquifers through the recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health. They are being used as interim guidance until promulgation of final regulations. Questions and comments concerning the possible effect of the regulations on Federally assisted projects in the designated Kings/Queens Aquifer should be directed to the Water Supply Branch, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region II, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York 10278.

EPA, Region II, is working with the Federal agencies which may sponsor projects in the area of concern, to develop interagency procedures whereby EPA will be notified of proposed commitments for projects which could contaminate the designated aquifer. EPA will evaluate such projects and, where necessary, conduct an in depth review, including soliciting public comments where appropriate.

Although the project review process cannot be delegated, the Regional Administration in Region II will rely, to the maximum extent possible, upon close coordination with State and local agencies to ensure consistency with their program objectives. Their input will be given full consideration and the Federal review process will function so as to complement and support State and local protection programs.

Federal funding may be withheld from any project which, upon review, may contaminate the aquifer through a recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health.

V. Economic and Regulatory Impact

Pursuant to the provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 605(b), I hereby certify that the attached rule will not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. For purposes of this Certification the "small entity" shall have the same meaning as given in Section 601 of the RFA. This action is only applicable to the Kings-Queens Area.

The only affected entities will be those area-based business, organizations or govern-mental jurisdictions that request Federal financial assistance for projects which have the potential for contaminating the aquifer so as to create a significant hazard to public health. EPA does not expect to be reviewing small isolated commitments of financial assistance on an individual basis, unless a cumulative impact on the aquifer is anticipated; accordingly, the number of affected small entities will be minimal.

For those small entities which are subject to review, the impact of today's action will not be significant. Most projects subject to this review will be preceded by a ground water impact assessment required pursuant to other Federal laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, as amended (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321, et seq. Integration of those related review procedures will allow EPA and other Federal agencies to avoid delay or duplication of effort in approving financial assistance, thus minimizing any adverse effect on those small entities which are affected. Finally, today's action does not prevent grants of Federal financial assistance which may be available to any affected small entity in order to pay for the redesign of the project to assure protection of the aquifer.

Under Executive Order 12291, EPA must judge whether a regulation is "major" and therefore, subject to the requirement of a Regulatory Impact Analysis. This regulation is not "major" because it will not have an annual effect of $100 million or more on the economy, will not cause any major increase in costs of products and will not have significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of United States enterprises to compete in domestic or export markets. Today's action only affects the designated area. It provides an additional review of ground water protection measures, incorporating, State and local measures whenever possible, for only those projects which request Federal financial assistance. Accordingly, a Regulatory Impact Analysis will not be required.

Dated: January 12, 1983.
William D. Ruckelshaus, Administrator.

[FR Doc. 831095 Filed 1/23/83; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 656050M

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