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Water quality concerns raised on Long Island due to 1,4-dioxane

Water quality concerns in Hempstead, N.Y. prompt call for change
Water quality concerns in Hempstead, N.Y. prompt call for change 02:10

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - Hempstead officials want federal help after they say unhealthy levels of the chemical 1,4-dioxane was found in all nine of the town's wells. 

They held a news conference Wednesday calling for for federal help constructing a new, state-of-the-art water system to remove the 1,4-dioxane and other PFAS, which are also known as "forever chemicals." 

Hobbs said the village water system is more than a century old.    

"We do not want to panic our residents, but we want them informed," Mayor Waylyn Hobbs, Jr. said. 

Town leaders say 1,4-dioxane is a likely carcinogen that could cause liver and kidney cancer. 

"We do not want to wait to find out what the results are that affect our residents, and that is why we are acting now," Hobbs said. 

Engineers for the village said residents can still drink the water and bathe in it, though there are no filters homeowners can buy. 

On Tuesday, the village board voted unanimously to put up a $55 million bond to pay for a new facility, but they're calling on the state government and Washington, D.C. to help fund the project so the burden doesn't fall on taxpayers. 

"Well, I don't like it, of course. And it's terrible that we got to pay for everything," resident Ernestine Hamilton said. 

"We shouldn't have to foot most of the bill. It's wrong," resident Barry Cullum said. 

"It's very irritating," Ernest White said. "It shouldn't cost us that much money just to water the lawn." 

A spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul said they gave the Town of Hempstead $72 million in the past for clean water, but did not say if it includes money for this new project.   

In 2019, Hempstead joined 25 water suppliers across Long Island to sue manufacturers for selling products that contained 1,4-dioxane, claiming the manufacturers knew, or should have known, the compound "would inevitably reach groundwater."   

What is 1,4-dioxane?

1,4-dioxane is a clear liquid with a faint odor that mixes easily with water, according to the CDC. While 1,4-dioxane breaks down easily in the air, in water it is stable and doesn't break down. 

According to the CDC, studies in workers did not indicate whether 1,4-dioxane causes cancer, but lab rats that drank water containing 1,4-dioxane for most of their lives developed liver cancer and cancer in the nose. 

"Scientists are debating the degree to which the findings in rats and mice apply to exposure situations commonly encountered by people," the CDC wrote. 

The EPA says 1,4-dioxane is likely a carcinogen in humans. 

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