What’s in your drinking water?

County Executive Rob Astorino says he protects the environment. In particular, he claims that Westchester County Airport’s ISO 14001 certification makes sure the environment is protected. But ISO 14001 is merely a standard to keep track of environmental targets and whether the county is meeting them. It doesn’t specify what those targets should be or how the county should work towards meeting those targets.

Since at least 2014, one of the airport’s environmental goals has been to reinstate the groundwater monitoring program that was in place from 2001 to 2011. Astorino complained that the old program was too expensive, so the county paid a consultant $20,000 in 2015 to reduce the scope of the program to make it cheaper. In 2016, according to the airport’s updated environmental goals, that work was completed but Astorino still won’t pay for the new, cheaper program.

On August 6, we asked Rob Astorino why he won’t approve the funds to reinstate the groundwater monitoring program. Why should we expect a for-profit company to make environmental improvements? He dodged our questions.

Even though the airport makes about $2 million per year and has $20 million in its savings account, Astorino won’t use the money to make sure that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals don’t end up in our water supply. He’d rather save that money to hand over to a company in his proposal to privatize the airport under a 40 year lease.

Unfortunately, the threat is real. Monitoring well FMW-14 is in a location where groundwater flows towards the Kensico Reservoir, which supplies over 9 million people, including 85% of Westchester residents, with drinking water. This well has consistently tested positive for VOCs. Are these VOCs getting into our water supply?

Many of the monitoring wells show elevated levels of heavy metals. Above is a portion of the results for the test in May 2010. All of the wells in the above table, except for FMW-2R, FMW-11, and FMW-12, are in locations where groundwater flows towards the Kensico Reservoir. Are these heavy metals getting into our water supply?

We don’t know the answers to either of these questions because Rob Astorino won’t fund programs to test groundwater at the airport. ISO 14001 sounds like a fancy certification, but it doesn’t actually require the county or a corporate operator to do anything to protect the environment.

In fact, Rob Astorino’s administration is actively in violation of his own environmental policy. Part of the airport’s environmental policy, signed by Astorino and required by ISO 14001, is to “make available to all interested stakeholders airport environmental performance reports.” But it has taken us over 4 months, 5 appeals, and the threat of a lawsuit against the county to get just a portion of the airport’s past groundwater monitoring reports and environmental audits. What is Rob Astorino hiding? What’s in your drinking water?

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