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Suffolk DA, Water Authority Join Forces To Target Drinking Water Pollution

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The Suffolk County Water Authority is teaming up with the Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini to monitor groundwater and investigate where pollution is coming from. Sini said they could use that information to eventually prosecute polluters of the region’s water supply.

“The long term goal is to ensure that we leave our future generations what was left to us: the ability to turn on the faucet and drink that water with peace of mind,” Sini said, calling it a “the first-of-its-kind partnership.”

Sini said the first short-term goal is to identify sources of pollution and begin investigations for criminal punishment. Patrick Halpin, chairman of the water authority, said it is vital to the county to protect the only source of water in the county.

The district attorney’s office has expanded its probe of environmental crimes, since 2018, when Sini released a special grand jury report to charge 30 people and 10 corporations with illegally disposing solid waste and construction materials across Long Island. It is considered the state’s largest illegal dumping case, known as Operation Pay Dirt.

Thursday’s agreement will require the water authority to provide free groundwater data to investigators in Sini’s office to help with the investigation of environmental crimes. Also, the authority is expected to map out water flow and provide models to prosecutors to identify sources of pollution.

Halpin called the partnership a win for Long Island and taxpayers because detecting contamination and pollution in the water before it spreads would save money.

“This landmark partnership between SCWA and District Attorney Sini will stop the pollution of our groundwater before it becomes an issue SCWA will have to remediate with expensive water treatment systems,” Halpin said in a statement. “It is therefore a huge victory for SCWA ratepayers and a huge victory for Long Island’s environment.”

The water authority operates 241 pump stations and 593 active wells throughout Suffolk County. Their laboratory tests 75,000 samples of drinking water yearly for over 400 contaminants.