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Long Island Residents Worry About Carcinogenic Chemical In Water

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Three million Long Island residents served by public and private wells have learned that a chemical with possible cancer links has been detected in drinking water.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, the Udeshi family and many others want to know why the water tested in one of Hicksville's main wells contains the highest concentration of the man-made chemical 1,4-dioxane – which is listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as a "probable carcinogen."

"I am concerned about it," said Vallabh Udeshi. "We have been living here since '81."

The well is no longer being used. The EPA survey showed 1,4-dioxane more prevalent on Long Island than anywhere else in the state.

The chemical was used in aviation, manufacturing and agricultural operations and is now being used as a stabilizer in solvents, and personal care products including shampoos and detergents.

"There's two ways to be exposed to the 1,4-dioxane," said Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "One is directly through drinking water. But the other is through exposure just through inhaling it when you're taking a shower."

The chemical can leech through the groundwater and into drinking water, where the sole source for Long Island is a network of underground aquifers.

The Citizens Campaign for the Environment is calling on the state to create a health-based drinking water standard, and is calling on the nation to regulate 1,4-dioxane – what level, if any, is safe for consumption.

H2M represents the Long Island Water Conference and its 50 water suppliers.

"The lack of guidance from EPA in terms of what's the meaning of these results -- what should the water suppliers be doing?" said H2M engineer Paul Ponturo.

Amid the questions, the Suffolk County Water Authority is being proactive, building a nearly $1 million ultraviolet reactor – the first of its kind in the state – that can neutralize 1,4-dioxane.

"This is the technology I think that utilities would run with," said Suffolk County Water Conference engineer Joseph Roccaro. "It's the only one so far shown to be effective."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in his State of the State address Tuesday that there will be further testing for 1,4-dioxane on Long Island this year.

Cuomo also proposed a $2 billion fund to pay for clean water infrastructure, helping communities install treatment systems to get rid of contaminants.

Effects of 1,4-dioxane vary, depending on a person's exposure, health and age.

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