Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth called on the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the use of Pentachlorophenol, or Penta, a chemical used by public utilities to preserve electrical and telephone poles. Penta is a known carcinogen and is a highly toxic pesticide known to cause health problems.
“I and many of the town’s residents are extremely concerned by the continued use of Pentachlorophenol (Penta) as a treatment for utility poles,” Supervisor Bosworth stated in her letter to the EPA. “The continued use of PCP on utility poles has the potential to affect the groundwater quality of millions of Long Island residents….Given that the majority of other uses of the product have been prohibited since 1984, I request that you take the final step to eliminate this threat to our communities and our environment and immediate move to ban the chemical, as other national governments have done.”
Penta’s commercial uses includes utility poles, fences, shingles, walkways, building components, piers, docks and porches, and flooring and laminated beams.
In September 2014, the town board unanimously passed a resolution requiring PSEG-LI to install signs on all utility poles installed after Jan. 31, 2015 that reads: “Notice: This pole contains Pentachlorophenol. Avoid prolonged contact with this pole. Wash hands or affected areas thoroughly if contact is made.”
Failure to comply with the law results in a $500 fine for the first offense, and a $1,000 fine for continued offenses. Each pole counts as a violation for each day the pole isn’t given the proper signage. PSEG-LI is currently challenging this law in court.
Bosworth nonetheless called on the EPA to use their authority to indefinitely suspend the use Penta altogether. In her letter, Bosworth notes that Long Island resides on top of a Sole Source Aquifer system, which provides all of the Town of North Hempstead’s drinking and utility water. Penta may leach into the aquifer system leading to increased costs for residents along with health risks associated with Penta. Further, Penta damages aquatic ecosystems and can be ingested by marine life, which may later be subject to human consumption.
In the letter, Bosworth states, “PCP [Pentachlorophenol] has long been recognized as a public health threat. Given that the majority of other uses of the product have been prohibited since 1984, I request that you [the EPA] take the final step to eliminate this threat to our communities and our environment, and immediately move to ban the chemical as other national governments have done.”
The EPA announced that it is reviewing Supervisor Bosworth’s letter but also confirmed that Pentachlorophenol is currently being reevaluated. The EPA had previously deemed Penta as “extremely toxic,” and a “probable” human carcinogen.
“Our utilities should be encouraged to use the safest material for their distribution systems,” Bosworth concluded.