Skip to main content
Press Release

Suffolk County to Comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Prevent Contamination of the County's Drinking Water Supply

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Consent Judgment Protects the Drinking Water of Entire Population of Suffolk County and Most of Long Island, Including Those Located in Communities Overburdened By Pollution

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and Lisa Garcia, Regional Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2, announced today that the United States filed suit under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), against Suffolk County, the Suffolk County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Suffolk County Department of Public Works  for their longstanding violations of the Underground Injection Well regulations which required Suffolk to close all Large Capacity Cesspools (LCCs) by April 2005 and all Motor Vehicle Waste Disposal Wells (MVWDWs) by January 1, 2008 (Prohibited LCCs and MVWDWs).  A Consent Judgment requiring Suffolk County to close all Prohibited LCCs and MVWDWs at an estimated cost of $7,020,000 and pay a $200,000 civil penalty was also lodged with the Court.

“Today’s Consent Judgment will protect the residents of Suffolk County and Long Island’s drinking water from harmful nutrient pollution which poses a risk both to the public health and the natural environment,” said United States Attorney Peace.  “This office will continue to vigorously enforce violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act to protect the public from contamination of its water supply and promote environmental justice.”

“This agreement with Suffolk County is a major achievement that will help protect the drinking water of millions of Long Islanders from the harmful impacts of large capacity cesspools and waste disposal wells," said Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. "These types of underground injection wells can pollute groundwater and endanger public health and the environment. EPA is committed to enforcing the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure that all communities have access to clean water.”


The complaint alleges that the Defendants violated the SDWA in their continued ownership and operation of Prohibited LCCs and MVWDWs at various Suffolk County parks and facilities for years beyond the SDWA regulatory deadline by which they were required to close them. 

LCCs are cesspools that receive untreated sanitary waste, including human excreta, which have an open bottom or perforated sides, and have the capacity to serve 20 or more persons a day.  Such untreated waste is high in harmful nutrients, such as nitrogen, that can compromise ground and surface water quality.  Nutrient pollution of the ground and surface waters in and surrounding Suffolk County is a longstanding problem that threatens the area’s water quality and ecosystem.  

MVWDWs are disposal wells that receive fluids from motor vehicle repair or maintenance activities.  During normal activities, vehicle fluids—such as engine oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze—when released to a dry well or septic system, can introduce various toxic chemicals into sources of drinking water.

Congress enacted the SDWA to protect the nation’s drinking water sources, including the regulation of LCCs and MVWDWs to prevent them from contaminating underground sources of drinking water. Underground injection wells, including the LCCs and MVWDWs at issue in the Complaint, pose a risk to the public because they can contaminate underground drinking water sources and the public water systems that use those sources.  

Consent Judgment

All of the Prohibited LCCs and MVWDWs are above the Nassau/Suffolk County Sole Source Aquifer, an already stressed sole source aquifer that supplies drinking water to the entire population of Suffolk County and most of the population of Long Island.  Because discharges from LCCs and MVWDWs have the potential to discharge to groundwater, through which contamination may migrate, such discharges impact all communities receiving drinking water from the Sole Source Aquifier, including communities that have been historically exposed to disproportionate environmental burdens.

Under the Consent Judgment, Defendants will close all the Prohibited LCCs and MVWDWs, convert them to lawful uses and prevent further contamination.  LCCs associated with most buildings will be converted to Innovative Alternative Solutions (IASs), with significant environmental benefits, particularly in the area of nitrogen reduction to nutrient compromised waters and protection of groundwater on Long Island.  IASs significantly decrease nitrogen discharges from wastewater.  The estimated cost of these measures and the closing of all Prohibited LCCs and MVWDWs is $7,020,000.  Defendants have already implemented certain measures to achieve compliance with the SDWA, including closing one of the Prohibited MVWDWs.  The remainder of the MVWDWs will be closed within 30 days of entry of the Consent Judgment.  The LCCs will be closed and converted in a phased schedule.  The Consent Judgment also requires Defendants to pay a $200,000 civil penalty.

The proposed settlement which is subject to a 30-day public comment period is available here:

Assistant United States Attorney Deborah B. Zwany is in charge of the litigation, with assistance from Phyllis Kaplan Feinmark and Lauren Fischer, Regional Counsel's Office, EPA Region 2;  Doughlas McKenna, Chief of the Water Compliance Branch, EPA Region 2; Nicole Foley Kraft, Chief of the Ground Water Compliance Section, EPA Region 2; and Lisa Kim Pelcyger, Environmental Engineer, Water Compliance Branch, EPA.

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 23-CV-4369


John Marzulli
Danielle Blustein Hass                            
United States Attorney’s Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated June 14, 2023

Environmental Justice