FRANKLIN SQUARE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- It's a coveted award: best drinking water on Long Island.
But even as judges were honoring the best, there was worrisome word that water quality is declining -- and it's blamed on human behavior, CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported.
Long Island's annual best water award pitted finalists from Nassau and Suffolk counties. Plainview won the contest for the best tasting water in Nassau County, beating out Franklin Square, 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera reported.
1010 WINS' Mona Rivera With More On The Winner Of The Nassau Co. Contest
But even as cleanest looking and tastiest water was being judged in Franklin Square, a water quality conference kicked off in Huntington, with an urgent message.
"People shouldn't confuse good taste with good quality of drinking water. Many of these chemicals, like nitrogen, as well as low level of toxic chemicals, cannot be tasted," said Adrienne Esposito, of the Citizens' Campaign for the Environment.
Hundreds of citizens joined scientists not in a blame game, but an appeal for everyone to accept responsibility for what environmental officials called "a serious decline in drinking water quality."
"We have a unique geology on Long Island, very different than other places in the Northeast. We are a sand bar, and under that sand bar is a lens of water from which we derive all of the water that we use every day," said Robert DeLuca of Group for the East End.
Three million people live on Long Island and there is no reservoir system. There's no pumping water from below, filtering it and drinking it, and now studies show dramatic increases in runoff from lawn fertilizers and farming pesticides, household chemicals and pharmaceuticals down the drain, untreated septic tank sewage and rapid unchecked over-development, officials said.
Experts and even water districts are concerned that growing pollutants below the surface are impacting drinking water, beaches, bays and harbors.
"Everybody has a role in changing behavior that caused the problem so that the water that our children and grandchildren drink will be safe and purer," said Richard Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society.
The water tasters back in Franklin Square said they will do their part but they want state and federal funding to help clean up and prevent water pollution.
Long Island lawmakers were in Albany on Thursday proposing legislation to protect water and prevent pollution.
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