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Acting Head Of EPA Pressured To Look Into Threats Against Long Island Drinking Water

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- There was a push Monday for the feds to reverse course and issue drinking water standards to protect public health.

Many Long Island residents fear toxic chemicals are seeping into the fragile water supply, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported.

Experts say the drinking water is threatened by the unregulated and highly toxic man-made chemical 1,4-dioxane. It is found in detergents, manufacturing solvents and firefighting foam.

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Demands have come from homeowners and environmentalists that the federal government do something to regulate use of poly-fluoro-alkyl substances, stop their spread and help pay for the cleanup have gone unheeded.

"To provide clean water and clean air, that is the purpose and the function of the United States Environmental Protection Agency," said Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is now pressing the acting head of the EPA to establish an enforceable drinking water standard, but designate Andrew Wheeler has declined.

"We are going to try to hold up his nomination unless he does this," Schumer said. "And if that doesn't work, pass legislation requiring the federal government under the Clean Water Act to put out standards."

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Nearly three-quarters of Long Island's water suppliers -- 10 times the national average -- have found traces or more of the likely carcinogen, posing a possible threat to human health, CBS2's McLogan reported.

"We've tested over 850 wells in about 25 different areas," said Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken said.

In failing to set a national standard, critics argue, the federal government is limiting the public's knowledge about their possible exposure to the contaminants, and hindering potential cleanup efforts.

It will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per private well owner to install carbon filtration systems or to link their wells to public supplies. Meanwhile, the water authority has joined the medical community calling for urgent help.

CBS2's calls to the acting EPA chief in Washington have not been returned.

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