Exclusive: Suffolk County testing water filter for carcinogen found in hundreds of wells

CENTRAL ISLIP, Long Island (WABC) -- Officials on Long Island are testing a new way to deal with concerns over potentially cancer-causing chemicals in their well water.

The chemical is called 1,4-dioxane, and hundreds of wells in Suffolk County have tested positive. Now, for the first time in New York state, a filter is being added to one of those wells to see if it removes the harmful chemicals.

"We have approximately 275 wells that have detections for 1,4 dioxane," said Kevin Durk, director of Water Quality & Laboratory Services at the Suffolk County Water Authority.

Experts say 1,4-dioxane is a virtually unregulated carcinogenic chemical found in antifreeze, dry cleaning solvents and shampoos. It leaks into the water supply and is impenetrable to most filters, until now.

The Suffolk County Water Authority is the first water service in the state to get a million-dollar 1,4-dioxane filter. Right now, it is only on a well serving Brentwood and Central Islip.

The magic of the filter is in the mixture of peroxide and UV light coming from 72 bulbs inside.

"(It) forms a very strong oxidant, and that destroys a lot of the organics and the 1,4-dioxane," Water Quality Engineer Joseph Roccaro said. "It comes out and goes into the GAC vessels, and they'll remove the rest of the peroxide."

The filter will be tested for about a month before it is put online. The data regarding the water they test will be sent to state and local regulators.

"I think that includes the policy makers and the regulators, because right now they're looking to set a standard," Roccaro said.

On Thursday, New York state environmental officials approved more than $62 million in grants to support drinking water and wastewater projects. And in all likelihood, they and many others in Albany will be keeping a close eye on the results.
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