$10 billion in funds to fight water contamination remains uncertain

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NEW YORK — In September, the U.S. Senate passed the $10 billion Water Resources Development Act.

The House passed it’s own version of the Act soon after.

But the two houses still need to iron out the differences before consideration by the White House, and time is running out.

If the bill is signed, a local in Bethpage, Long Island, may benefit.

“We have to do it this way,” John Strebel, of Bethpage, is demonstrating how the water filter on the end of his kitchen faucet works.

He recalls getting a notice in the mail about his water about six months ago. It concerned him, so he decided to install a filter.

“It’s probably not dangerous, but we said we’ll take it and get a water filter.”

Contaminated water has slowly been spreading underground in Bethpage. According to the EPA, a 3,000-acre toxic plume of contaminated groundwater has migrated away from the old Northrop Grumman factory and U.S. Naval

Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant off of South Oyster Bay Road. The Water Act would dedicate resources to this problem and it would require that a map be created to show the plume’s whereabouts. It would also mandate a comprehensive strategy to prevent contaminants from entering drinking water wells.

Some have already been affected.

Dr. Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor who exposed high levels of lead in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water, said the bill’s passage would send a strong message.

“What Flint really drove home to us is the horrible state of our water infrastructure in this country,” he said.

The act would provide additional funding to states to fight lead and other contaminants in public drinking water.

For example, it could help pay for the removal of old lead service lines, such as the ones that are currently being cut out of the street by the Passaic Valley Water System in New Jersey.

But even if Congress approves $10 billion for water infrastructure spending, the problem is not cheap.

The State of New York has estimated that over $38 billion dollars are needed to update the state’s drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years. The EPA has estimated that New Jersey is facing $8 billion dollars in needed improvements.

Water utility administrators who spoke to PIX11 stated they would like to see the federal dollars spent on educating the public on the dangers of lead, as well as on water infrastructure.

It costs approximately $5,000 to remove a lead pipe from the beneath the street. So if there are hundreds or thousands of them in a water system, the cost to remove them all could be in the millions.

“These costs are very expensive, replacing all the lead plumbing,” said Dr. Edwards. "But the cost to actually protect yourself and your family from the health risk could be as cheap as a $30 filter. Even if you have a pure lead pipe this will protect you and your family."

A public health organization called NSF International tests and certifies water filters They stress using a filter that is specifically certified for the contaminant you’re trying to keep out of your cup, such as lead.

The EPA has also been talking about revising the lead and copper rule, which governs how water systems test for lead and what they must do to fix it.