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Nassau-Suffolk Aquifer System Nassau-Suffolk Aquifer System

 

  • AGENCY

     

     

    AGENCY

    Environmental Protection Agency

    ACTION

    Notice.

    DETERMINATION

    Notice is hereby given that pursuant to Section 1424(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300f, 300h3(e): 88 Stat. 1660 et seq., Pub.L. 93523) the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the aquifer system underlying the Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island, New York, is the principal source of drinking water for these counties and that, if the aquifer system were contaminated, it would create a significant hazard to public health.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

    I. Background

    The Safe Drinking Water Act was enacted on December 16, 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."

    On January 21, 1975, the Environmental Defense Fund petitioned the Administrator to designate the aquifers underlying Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island, New York, as a Sole Source Aquifer under the provisions of the Act. A notice of receipt of this petition, together with a request for comments was published in the Federal Register, Thursday, June 12, 1975. Written comments were submitted by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on August 7, 1975, supporting their position. A letter from the Director of the Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board, dated October 1, 1976, requested that designation be delayed until after the completion of the area wide waste management (208) planning process for Long Island.

    Because of the limited response to the Federal Register notice, EPA issued a press release and mailed an information sheet to elected officials and environmental groups on Long Island in March 1977. In addition, a presentation was made to the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) of the 208 planning agency and to the executive committee of the Long Island Water Conference. In response to these activities EPA received three comments: a letter from EDF questioning why project review would exclude direct Federal projects, a letter from a member of the East Hampton Planning Board expressing support for the designation, and a letter fro the CAC requesting that designat-ion be delayed until after the completion and approval of the Long Island 208 Plan.

    In considering the comments received, we could not agree with the letters requesting further delay since we do not believe that the review process under Section 1424(e) will constrain the options of 208 planning.

    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 aquifers underlying Nassau and Suffolk Counties are the sole or principal source of drinking water for the area. They supply good quality water for about 2.5 million people. Current water supply treatment practice for public supplies is generally limited to disinfection for drinking purposes, with some plants capable of nitrate removal. There are also numerous private sources. There is no alternative source of drinking water supply which could economically replace this aquifer system.

    (2) The aquifer system is vulnerable to contamination through its recharge zone. Since contamination of a ground water aquifer can be difficult or impossible to reverse, contamination of the aquifer system underlying Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New York, would pose a significant hazard to those people dependent on the aquifer system for drinking purposes.

    Among the determinations which the Administrator must make in connection with the designation of an area under Section 1424(e) is that the area's sole or principal source aquifer or aquifers, "if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health ..." Obviously, threats to the quality of drinking water supply for such a large population could create a significant hazard to public health. The EPA does not construe this provision to require a determination that projects planned or likely to be constructed will in fact create such a hazard; it is sufficient to demonstrate that approximately 2.5 million people depend on the aquifer system underlying Nassau and Suffolk Counties as their principal source of drinking water, and that the aquifer system is vulnerable to contamination through its recharge 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 zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health. The recharge zone is that area through which water enters into the aquifer system. Because of ground water movement within these aquifers, the recharge zone is considered to be the entire area of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. However, both horizontal and vertical boundaries of the recharge zone are discussed in the background document under the section entitled "Area of Consideration."

    The data upon which these findings are based are available to the public and may be inspected during normal business hours at the office of the Environmental Protection Agency, Region II, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York 10007. It includes a support document for designation of the aquifers underlying Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New York, and maps of the area within which projects will be subject to review.

    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.

    The EPA has issued proposed regulations for the selective review of Federal financially assisted projects which may contaminate the aquifer system underlying Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New York, through the recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health. These proposed regulations were published in the Federal Register issue of September 29, 1977, and public comments were requested. They will be used as interim guidance for project review until their promulgation during 1978.

    EPA, Region II, is working with the Federal agencies which may in the near future fund projects in the area of concern to develop interagency procedures whereby EPA will be notified of proposed commitments for projects which could contaminate the bicounty area's sole source aquifer system. Although the project review process cannot be delegated, the Regional Administrator in Region II will rely to the maximum extent possible upon any existing or future State and local control mechanisms in protecting the ground water quality of the aquifer system underlying Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New York. Included in the review of any Federal financially assisted project will be coordination with the State and local agencies. Their determinations will be given full consideration and the Federal review process will function so as to complement and support State and local mechanisms.

    Dated: June 12, 1978.
    Douglas M. Costello, Administrator.

    [FR Doc. 7817067 Filed 6/20/78; 8:45 am]
    BILLING CODE 656001

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