Recap: Huntington Town Supervisor Forum

On October 20th, 2021, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) held a forum with the candidates for Huntington Town Supervisor — Ed Smyth, Rebecca Sanin, and Eugene Cook —  to discuss their stances on a range of environmental and sustainability issues. The Forum was moderated by NYLCVEF President Julie Tighe and environmental panelists included Adrienne Esposito from Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Eric Alexander from Vision Long Island, and Mariah Dignan from Climate Jobs NY.

Ed Smyth is a practicing lawyer in the Town of Huntington, a US Marine Staff Sergeant veteran, and serves as a Councilman on the Huntingtown Board following his election in 2017. Smyth is running on a platform of continued investment in green infrastructure, concerned primarily with insufficient sewer systems in the Town and poor water quality. He also holds deep concerns about solid waste management on Long Island and the closing of the Brookhaven Landfill in 2024, and the lack of economically or environmentally sound methods of transporting ash waste off of Long Island. In response to this, he intends to implement measures to reduce solid waste by tonnage, increase recycling, and implement organic recycling streams. 

When asked about the issue of affordable housing in his constituency, Smyth answered that he would shift from the current system of requiring 20% of new developments to be priced as affordable housing, to instead selling all units at market value and putting the difference in profit margins into an affordable housing trust fund in an effort to increase homeownership. He also intends to upgrade the sewage treatment plan and minimize new development that typically leads to an increase in the flow of wastewater.

Rebecca Sanin has spent her career fighting inequity in underserved communities and is deeply concerned with the intersection between climate justice and social and economic inequality. She believes education is fundamental in addressing climate change and should be utilized such as in the case of teaching people how to transition to and maintain modern IA septic systems that reduce pollutants in waterways. She also is concerned with poor housing being a social determinant of public health and intends to implement more affordable housing and building opportunities. 

If elected, Sanin intends to prioritize environmental design to promote safety in her community, such as changing traffic flow to reduce congestion or implementing more sidewalks to promote walkability.  She also supports the federal Build Back Better agenda and believes that economic development depends on good jobs, fair pay, and community benefits. She further intends to incentivize Town fleets to reduce emissions and introduce more electric vehicles into her community.  

Eugene Cook is a small business owner and has been a Councilman for the past 10 years in the Town of Huntington. As Councilman, he has fought overdevelopment in his municipality and takes issue with the drastic increase in housing costs that make homeownership much more difficult than in past decades. He greatly values communication with his constituents when making decisions for the Town, and especially prioritizes listening to the needs of small business owners, particularly during COVID times, as a small business owner himself. 

If elected, Cook intends to mandate all homes with over 50% reconstruction to install new IA septic systems and implement grants to have them installed throughout the Town. He also hopes to convert Town buildings to natural gas to increase renewable energy usage and convert the Town’s fleet to all-electric vehicles. 

Thank you to our partners and panelists: Adrienne Esposito from Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Eric Alexander from Vision Long Island, and Mariah Dignan from Climate Jobs NY. Early voting is held from October 23 to October 31, and election day takes place on November 2nd.

Submitted by Michaela Stones

Recap: NYC Council District 32 Candidate Forum

On October 5th, 2021, the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF) held a candidate forum for New York Council District 32, which is a coastal district and climate frontline community. It centers around Jamaica Bay, Ozone Park, and the western half of the Rockaways and is currently occupied by Council Member Eric Ulrich. This forum was held on zoom in preparation for the November 2nd general election. The forum featured Democratic nominee Felicia Singh and Republican nominee Joann Ariola, and was moderated by NYLCV NYC Chapter Board Member Karen Mintzer. 

Felicia Singh is a lifelong resident of Ozone Park, a teacher, and the daughter of two working-class immigrants. She holds experience as a former Peace Corps volunteer, Vice President of Our Neighbors Civic Association of Ozone Park, and as a member of both the Assembly District 23 Country Committee and South East Queens Complete Count Committee. Singh is running on a platform that centers environmental racism and intersectionality in fighting the climate crisis and believes in the importance of amplifying community voices and involving local residents in climate policy discussions and decisions. She also holds deep concerns about “The Hole”, a section of her district where few people have proper sewer systems and is a place that is chronically ignored by civic leaders and elected officials. 

When asked about the importance of education in combatting the climate crisis, Singh emphasized the need for a climate curriculum that is intersectional and built into classes from gym to science. She also values education as a whole in her community, which she believes to be necessary for increasing electric vehicle ownership and implementing a more universal composting system where people take personal responsibility in helping climate crisis mitigation. Singh further believes in the importance of taking care of the working class, such as protecting taxi drivers in the Central Business District Tolling Program proposal that would help to mitigate congestion but burden those made to pay congestion fees to fund the MTA. 

Joann Ariola is the president of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association and a member of Community Board 10, and holds experience working with two mayors and members of the NYC Council. She also has been involved in hundreds of cleanups throughout her district and is an appointed member of the NYS Rising Committee where she works on projects to develop climate resiliency in her community. She strongly supports increasing funding for public parks and green spaces and has worked to make parks more accessible and safe for all such as installing swings for children with disabilities. 

When asked about the sewage system in her district, Ariola spoke about how in her district, sewer lines are shared between stores and households, causing increased flooding particularly during storms such as the recent Hurricane Ida. She intends to increase sewer maintenance and alleviate any sewage backup to mitigate household flooding. She also is in favor of increasing beautification efforts in public parks, and the new Rails to Trails proposal that would ensure safer cycling throughout the district and easier access to forests and green space. When asked about accessibility to public transport, Ariola discussed how she worked to make two stations in her district accessible and intends to do so for all remaining public transport stations that are currently inaccessible. 

Thank you to our partners: the Waterfront Alliance, the Rise to Resilience Coalition, and the Regional Plan Association. Early voting is held from October 23 to October 31, and election day takes place on November 2nd.


Submitted by Michaela Stones

Recap: What’s Next for PFAS? Webinar

On June 29th, 2021 NYLCVEF hosted a virtual public forum along with Suez, a New York water service company to discuss per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). NYLCVEF President Julie Tighe began by introducing the topic of water contamination, specifically regarding PFAS. To combat contamination in NY, the Drinking Water Advisory Council lowered advisory levels to 10 parts per trillion, a limit below the EPA standards. The panel discussed the properties of PFAS, sources of PFAS, research and regulations, and remediation efforts.

If you would like to watch the webinar recording, please click here.

Dr. Peter Grevatt, the CEO of The Water Research Foundation, explained that there are around 5,000 PFAS chemicals, which are man-made compounds that have been around for many decades and are difficult to break down because of their strong carbon-bonded chains. Invented in the 1930s, PFAS uses have grown from non-stick coatings to shampoos, paints, floor polishes, stain-resistant products, and firefighting foam. Further research projects related to PFAS and contamination conducted by The Water Research Foundation include how PFAS behaves in the environment, how long they last, where they go, and how to remove them. 

Tracy Mehan, Executive Director of Government Affairs at the American Water Works Association (AWWA) introduced “legacy compounds” of which there are two, PFOA and PFOS. These compounds cause health risks when ingested and have been increasingly found in drinking water. Mehan stressed that agencies and water utilities need to know where to focus their monitoring resources to understand the risk in their source waters and where these PFAS substances have been produced and at what volumes. Additionally, he underlined the importance of the EPA to use existing tools to moderate and address PFAS. AWWA wants to see greater reliance and focus on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which gives data gathering authority for agencies to garner more information from the manufacturing sector about the number of PFAS compounds that have been developed and at what quantities they’re produced, as well as where they’re produced. The Clean Water Act would also help strategically and proactively achieve source water protection, and AWWA has been urging EPA to deploy regulations under the Act. AWWA also suggests the EPA release a report on the location of PFAS production, import, processing, and use, and update it every two years based on data collected through the TSCA.

Sean Mahar, Chief of Staff for the State Department of Environmental Conservation, focused on Rockland County water quality and New York’s emerging contaminants response. Recent actions taken to curb contaminant levels in NYS include introducing MCLs, or maximum contaminant levels, and DEC’s launch of an investigation into potential, existing, and legacy Superfund sites and inactive landfills for PFAS chemicals. NYSDEC conducted this by researching places that PFAS compounds have been found, which include airports, military bases, fire training centers, major oil facilities, manufacturers, and landfills. They’ve been sampling groundwater to address any public exposure to contamination. So far, landfill sites tested for PFAS have not been identified as the source of drinking water contamination. Moving forward, Maher outlined additional steps of investigating other potential PFAS sites and continuing efforts to understand PFAS behavior and contamination.

Dan Shapley, co-director of Riverkeeper’s Science and Patrol Program, outlined the programs, highlighting its goal of protecting water sources, regulating other contaminants that aren’t PFAS, and utilizing varying levels of government to come about change. Shapley lamented the slow regulation rates and unregulated contaminant levels on a nationwide and statewide scale, citing a global increase in chemical use in recent years as the reason for the spike. Correlated health risks include fertility decline, auto-immune and thyroid diseases, cancer, and more. The “chemical iceberg” breaks down as follows: PFAS are only 2.5% of chemicals, only 0.3% of PFAS are testable, and only 6.5% of those are regulated. He concluded that because of PFAS persistence, toxicity, an affinity for water, and ubiquity, they should be banned from non-essential purposes and regulated strongly. The Rockland Water Coalition encourages Suez to publish their plan to treat water sources exceeding NYS standards and treat the affected water bodies and urges the Department of Health and EPA to regulate PFAS as a class of chemicals and to enforce other government and non-government measures to ban non-essential uses and provide testing services. 

Carol Walczyk, Vice President of Water Quality and Compliance for the Regulated Utility Division of Suez, explained that Suez collects water samples quarterly to test for PFAS chemicals. When they are detected, more samples are tested to determine whether there were contamination issues. Walczyk echoes that they are difficult to get rid of because of their strong carbon bonds and because PFAS is found in a multitude of everyday products. There are technologies that exist to remediate PFAS, some of which are preferred by NYS, however, Suez needs to do a pilot study to make sure the technology would be effective. Walczyk mentioned that Suez services multiple states with varying maximum contaminant levels (MCLs), which makes standardizing an action plan difficult. Finally, it was emphasized that Suez works collaboratively to continue research and mitigation efforts as well as testing for and removing PFAS from currently contaminated areas. 

In the concluding Q&A session, accountability and compensation were discussed. Mahar spoke about suing production companies of firefighting foam in order to financially gain back what has been spent on PFAS testing and removal processes. Walczyk spoke about the conflicts that come about between national, state, and local governments trying to regulate contamination and alert the public of the current risk level. Additionally, she explained that the United States is a few years ahead of regulation around the world (maybe because the US has used more, but the EU recently implemented an advisory level.) Mehan also reaffirmed the concerns that regulation will be challenging because of the many different types of PFAS. Finally, panelists discussed the urgent needs of PFAS testing and research. 

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