Emerging contaminants are substances being discovered in drinking water sources throughout the country. Every four years, the Environmental Protection Agency puts out a list of a dozen or so unregulated contaminants that water providers are required to test and monitor. This actions stem from the agency’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). 1,4-dioxane and PFOA/PFOS were on a recent UCMR list which has led to detections of these compounds in water sources throughout the country. 1,4-dioxane specifically has been detected in 70 percent of Long Island’s water wells and has been detected in most of our water well at levels ranging from 0.2 to 3.8 parts per billion (ppb).
On July 8, 2019, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) accepted proposed regulations from the State’s Drinking Water Quality Council that will set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). These proposed regulations are currently within the public comment period, but are expected to be adopted before the end of 2019. Currently, it is unclear when the new MCLs set by NYSDOH will go into effect as well as when water providers must comply with the newly created guidelines.
While the state is progressing with the strictest regulations on 1,4-dioxane and PFAS in the entire country, the Plainview Water District is working aggressively to get out in front of the changing policies and has authorized a series of proactive actions, including:
- Actively piloting advanced treatment technologies for the removal of 1,4-dioxane through a grant obtained from the Center for Clean Water Technology (CCWT) at Stony Brook University. This vital pilot program will study two types of Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOP) in conjunction with another District on Long Island. AOP is the most promising type of treatment for the removal of 1,4-dioxane from potable water systems.
- Actively piloting a third AOP pilot program at Plant 1 to treat for 1,4-dioxane.
- Pursuing litigation, along with nearly 30 other Long Island water providers, to hold the manufacturers of 1,4-dioxane accountable as the District firmly believe residents should not be held liable for the expense of treatment needed to remediate contamination caused by polluters.
- Pursuing any and all potential funding sources to keep costs of needed treatment upgrades as low as possible for residents.
- The District has already received funding to partially pursue the various mandated 1,4-dioxane pilot programs, including the recent award of a design and planning grant to construct additional 1,4-dioxane treatment.
- In addition, we are in the process of submitting an additional $3 million grant application to the State for 2019 and again for 2020.
- In total, PWD has been awarded more than five million dollars in grant funding to date for water treatment projects, which includes treatment pilots for the removal of 1,4-dioxane, but does not include money for ongoing operations, maintenance, testing and upgrades.
- Production of educational materials including consumer fact sheets, newsletters and website resources to provide information in order to keep residents updated on New York State’s progress and the District’s aggressive action to comply with impending regulation.
These advanced piloting and planning operations will place the District in a position to implement wellhead treatment in order to continue to supply our residents with water that meets or exceeds all drinking water standards.
Treating for 1,4-dioxane is possible, but it’s complicated, expensive and requires significant time to implement. To make things more complex, the treatment systems themselves are new and somewhat unproven. There are only two approved 1,4-dixoane treatment systems on Long Island—one in Nassau and one in Suffolk. To treat for 1,4-dioxane island wide there is a potential need for 100 of these treatment systems.
The first step in developing any treatment system is understanding what exactly it is that you need to treat for. This is why the Plainview Water District has place such an emphasis on comprehensive testing. Our frequent testing gives us information that some other suppliers including smaller size districts may not have access to. It doesn’t make their water safer. In fact in NY State only approximately 300 out of 9000 water districts submitted samples for UCMR3 (the testing under which 1,4-dioxane falls). In other words, 8,700 water providers in New York State have no sampling data and do not know their 1,4-dioxane and PFOS levels.
The District is actively engaged in the required pilot studies needed to determine the scope of the treatment systems for 1,4-dioxane. Each pilot study uses a small-scale version of an AOP treatment system to test its ability to remove 1,4-dioxane at impacted wells. Pilot studies are required by New York State before any final treatment system can be approved. It is important to note that water produced through the pilot systems are put to waste. None of this water is placed into the public distribution system.
Treating for 1,4-Dioxane – Advance Oxidation Process (AOP)
The most promising form of treatment for removing 1,4-dioxane from drinking water is the Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP). AOP treatment blends raw groundwater with a low concentration of an oxidant—most commonly hydrogen peroxide— that then goes through a sophisticated ultraviolet light reactor that then destroys 1,4-dioxane molecules.
Once groundwater goes through the AOP process, that water is then piped into Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) vessels. GAC vessels, which are industrial-sized carbon filters—remove any remaining hydrogen peroxide and other volatile organic compounds (VOC) from the water. From here, water is chlorinated, tested and then goes into the distribution system.
The Plainview Water District’s commitment to provide its residents with water that meets or surpasses all federal, state and local guidelines is unwavering. With that said, it is important to know that we as water providers are not responsible for setting health policy. Our function is to take the regulations and guidelines developed by health experts and design and implement the treatment systems required to ensure the water being delivered to resident homes complies with these strict and rigorous standards.
It is important to know that Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement of the Health Department’s newly proposed standards for 1,4-dioxane are preventive in nature. According to state officials, the proposed standard is meant to ensure that levels of the contaminant in our drinking water “never rise to the point of causing a public health risk.”
The EPA’s Drinking Water Standards and Health Advisory statement states an increased lifetime cancer risk of one in 1 million assuming consumption of 2 liters of water per day each and every day for a lifetime (70 years) at a level of .35 ppb. To put this into perspective, 1.0ppb is equal to one drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Any potential health effects for these contaminants primarily result from a lifetime of exposure, not exposure over short periods of time.
Aside from being predominantly found in industrial solvents and degreasers, information disseminated by the EPA states that 1,4-dioxane is present in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and is present in some food supplements, food containing residues from packaging adhesives on food crops treated with pesticides that contain 1,4-dioxane. It is a by-product present in many goods, including consumer products, deodorants, detergents, shampoos and cosmetics (even those that claim to be all natural).
While we are here to speak with our residents about emerging contaminants, health-related questions are best answered by the qualified individuals at your local and state health departments. They can be reached at:
New York State Health Department
Nassau County Department of Health
Many residents ask: Can I treat for 1,4-dioxane at home with filtration. The short answer is no.
Regarding filtration systems and bottled water; at present there are no NSF or UL certified home water treatment devices available for the removal of 1,4-dioxane. As to bottled water, regulations for 1,4-dioxane would be enforced by the Food and Drug Administration, but they are currently do not exist and we are unaware of plans to have them developed. Consuming bottled water also has its own health risks associated with exposure to micro plastics. Bottled water manufacturers may have specific information on 1,4-dioxane levels for their products but they are not all required to test so it may not be listed.
If you have any further questions, please reach out to the District directly at 516-931-6469 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York State Department of Health can be reached at 1-800-458-1158 or by email at email@example.com.
Nassau County Department of Health can be reached at 516-227-9697.
More information about 1,4 dioxane can be seen here:
- Albany Times Union – Long Island Water Conference – More Time Is Needed To Comply with Emerging Contaminant Regulations
- Consumer Reports – Should We Break Our Bottled Water Habit?
- 1,4-dioxane in Drinking Water – Guideline Technical Document for Public Consultation
- US EPA Technical Fact Sheet 1,4-Dioxane.
- US EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS).
- US EPA Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Risk Evaluation for Existing Chemicals
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ToxFAQs fact sheets.
- Water Research Foundation. 2014. “1,4-Dioxane White Paper.”
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). “Dioxane – NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards”.