Last February I went before the East Hampton Town Board and asked them to ban imidacloprid, a neurotoxic chemical pesticide that was first registered for use on Long Island in 1995. I even wrote a blog about it- check it out by clicking here. The blog speaks mainly to the harmful effects of imidacloprid on honeybees(although imidacloprid also kills fish and crustaceans), and also relays that it is found in our groundwater. It is interesting, or rather disturbing, to note that imidacloprid had only been used on Long Island for five years when it was first detected in our groundwater.
We all know the importance of water, and in case you don’t know about honeybees, you should know that they are especially important if you eat food. So, if you do drink water or happen to eat food, you may want to attend the upcoming DEC public hearings regarding the Long Island Pesticide Use Management Plan (LIPUMP), and ask them to ban imidacloprid, amongst other things. (FYI: The term pesticide includes herbicides, fungicides, and pest killing pesticides.) The East Hampton Town Board could not, or would not take a stand against imidacloprid, but the NYSDEC does have the ability to do so. Like it or not, we rely on the government to protect our air, water and food- it is their responsibility to us, and they should do their job. I guess the big question is, does the DEC have the will to protect our drinking water from pesticide contamination, which will also protect public health and the environment, including the honeybees? I guess that remains to be seen.
The NYSDEC started developing this plan back in 1998, and 15 years later, they are finally presenting this to the public for our input. Unfortunately, the plan does not include measures to protect Long Island's groundwater against pesticide contamination, it just calls for meetings and planning and maybe some more studies. This is where it is imperative that the public voice be heard! We must let the DEC know how we feel, and the upcoming publichearings are a good place to start.
Long Island was one of the first places where pesticide related compounds were found in drinking water, and according to the LIPUMP, more than half of private and non-community drinking water on LI tested positive for pesticides. In almost 40% of the wells, more than one pesticide was found. We are not alone, as this is a national issue. The USGS tested streams across America, and more than half contain five or more pesticides. Two or more pesticides are found in almost 25 percent of all groundwater samples- across America! Overwhelmed? We should demand that the NYSDEC step up and protect the integrity of our groundwater for today and more so, for the future.
Why is a forward look so important? And is it is too late? After banning aldicarb in 1979, levels increased in groundwater for two decades! Now aldicarb is making its way into our surface waters….meaning our bays, harbors,ponds…. How will aldicarb and all the newfangled pesticides affect our fisheries and the ecology of our fragile marine and aquatic ecosystems in the coming years? Will these chemicals decimate marine life? Will any remaining eelgrass or other aquatic vegetation be killed just like the weeds that are the target of common chemical herbicides? How do we decide, or prove, if you will, what toxins, or combinations of chemical toxins are wreaking havoc on the environment, and who will ‘pay for it’ when the damage becomes apparent in the coming decades?
Oh, by the way-imidacloprid is not the only pesticide found in Long Island’s drinking water. The three pesticides most commonly found in our water are atrazine, metalaxyl, and imidacloprid, so in all fairness, we should ask the DEC to ban all three! We will not be alone in this call to action, as numerous organizations have banded together to ask the DEC to prohibit the use of these three chemicals on Long Island. Click here for a letter from 22 groups to the DEC calling for a ban of three pesticides.
As much as I hate imidacloprid, I am perplexed as to why we still use atrazine in America. After all, this chemical was banned in Europe in 2004 because of its persistence in groundwater. Even so, we Americans use over 76 million pounds of it each year. It is our chemical of choice, and is the most widely used pesticide in America, even though it is a known endocrine disruptor that may cause cancer, birth defects, and low birth weights. It also reduces sperm counts in men and causes menstrual problems in women. Metalaxyl is no better. It has been found over 1300 times in 546 Long Island ground water samples over a ten year period. Some of the bad things it does are cause kidney and liver damage in humans and it is also toxic to birds.
Atrazine, metalaxyl, and imidacloprid are not the only pesticides found in Long Island drinking water. Over 120 pesticides are currently found in our aquifers today! 10 million pounds of pesticides are applied across Long Island each year to control insects, weeds, and plant diseases. This equates to over a pound of pesticides per person, per year. And guess where much of these chemicals end up? We eat it, breathe it, dig it, and we also drink it!
Could this be the reason for the high rate of cancers amongst Long Islanders?Well, I’m not entirely convinced that pesticides are the sole cause of all the weird cancers across Long Island, but I do believe that the daily infusion of radioisotopes into our groundwater by our friends at Brookhaven National Lab have something to do with it. (I’ll save that debate for another blog!) That said, do we know the health effects when you drink atrazine, metalaxyl, and imidacloprid mixed with antidepressants, hormonal medications, a bit of acetaminophen, a radioisotope or two, and a little caffeine for a kick? (Yes, our ground water also contains all kinds of prescription drugs, personal care products and over the counter medications – read more about it by clicking here). What are the effects on unborn babies, our children, people with weakened immune systems and all of us ‘healthy’ adults? I learned long ago that water is good for us-and helps keep us healthy. But wait-does it really??
Add nitrogen (from our septic systems) to the hydrating underground chemical cocktail and you certainly have a toxic brew. A chemical cocktail made by Long Islanders -especially for Long Islanders! What is this doing to our children and what will their future be without drinkable water? This is our groundwater- our sole source for today and tomorrow. What we have done is contaminate it- and what we should do is stop! We know where the contamination is coming from- and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to stop it. I think we may need a little help- so we should insist that the DEC do their job and ban the use of three of the worst chemical pesticides found in our water.
We should also remember that pesticides are used for a reason, and there needs to be alternatives to the common chemical pesticides in use today. Organic plant care has benefits to all of us, and it is effective! The DEC should inquire into these safe alternatives, and offer the information to our farmers, landscapers and homeowners. FYI: Suffolk County is the highest agricultural producer (in $$) in New York state! Through an organic approach, farmers could reduce their use of chemicals while still offering us a good supply of healthy food while ensuring the health of the water, the people and the planet!
Please save the date and plan to attend one of the 2 public hearings and let your voice be heard (unless you like the pesticides in your water, then by all means, please stay home.)
April 3, 2013: 7-9 PM at the Suffolk County Community College Eastern Campus on 121 Speonk-Riverhead Road in Riverhead, NY Shinnecock 101 is the meeting room
April 4, 2013: 7-9 PM at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center on 510 Grumman Road West in Bethpage, NY. The hearing will be in in the Main Conference Room.
I believe it was Bob Marley who said “You ain't gonna miss your water till you well runs dry.” How about “You ain’t gonna want your water when it is toxic”.