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U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin

File Photo by Alex Petroski

By Perry Gershon

Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) is a master at telling half-truths. He goes to great lengths to tell his constituents that he supports health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and lowering prescription drug prices, but his voting record says differently. Zeldin voted against coverage for pre-existing conditions, and just recently, shot down a bill for prescription drug coverage reform and prescription drug coverage reform. He even has the audacity to take credit for programs he voted against. A quick look at his record, however, is quite revealing.

Zeldin voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He has cast several such votes in his three terms in office, most recently May 2017 (and he openly urges the courts to overturn the ACA now). The federal requirement to provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions comes directly from the ACA, so Zeldin’s opposition to coverage for pre-existing conditions is right there in his votes. Zeldin and President Donald Trump (R) claim to offer ACA replacement legislation that provides for pre-existing condition coverage, but these bills do not protect consumers, especially those with pre-existing conditions. They provide no requirement that these individuals will not be penalized in pricing and availability of coverage.

When Congress, in Dec. 2019, passed its bill to make prescription drugs more affordable, Zeldin voted against the bill (HR-3). His position on this critical issue is again demonstrated by his vote. The only effective way to control the cost of prescription drugs is to let Medicare, the largest consumer, negotiate drug prices directly with the manufacturers. It’s no surprise that Zeldin continues to prohibit Medicare from negotiating because much of his campaign contributions comes from drug makers and their affiliates. This isn’t me saying this, it’s right there in his campaign finance reports that he is legally obligated to file with the Federal Election Commission. Given Zeldin’s benefactors, it’s no wonder he opposes true prescription price reforms.

Zeldin takes credit for funding medical research at Stony Brook. His most recent February “newsletter” stated that he secured $3 million of new National Institutes of Health grants to Stony Brook for medical research, and he cites a bipartisan letter he signed requesting a budget increase specifically for NIH research. What Zeldin does not tell you is that when the actual budget came to a vote on July 25, 2019, he voted against it. His own voting record proves that Zeldin did not vote to increase NIH appropriations, or increased funding for Stony Brook.

But Zeldin’s biggest deception of all is that he is has listened and knows what his constituents need for their health care. Again, the facts belie that. Zeldin’s last public town hall was in April 2017, before his vote to repeal the ACA. He has not held one since then. He has no idea what his constituents want or need!

Town halls are meant to be open to all constituents who want to attend. There should be no prescreening of questions or questioners (to exclude critics) or else it is not really a true town hall. I know this from first-hand experience.

I have held five open town halls since last September, and I will hold five more before the end of June. I take questions from Democrats, Republicans — whoever attends and wants to ask a question. As a matter of fact, I take each and every question asked of me and I give truthful, fact-based answers. There is no prescreening and no spin at my town halls.

People on Long Island deserve a representative who will listen to them when they speak out about health care. I want to see universal health care for everyone — and I believe we can do it with the ACA supercharged with a public option. We need to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices to achieve true pricing reforms. This November, we have a chance to give NY-1 a representative who will fight for us in Washington and tell us the truth here at home.

Perry Gershon is a national commentator on business, trade, policy and politics. A congressional candidate for New York’s 1st District, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley.

The PFAS Action Act of 2019 (H.R. 535) would regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and assist local communities in cleaning up water contamination. File photo by Giselle Barkley

Water quality has been an important issue on Long Island as new containments continue to emerge. A piece of legislation passed Jan. 10 by the House would help mitigate a group of man-made chemical substances. 

The PFAS Action Act of 2019 (H.R. 535) would regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and assist local communities in cleaning up water contamination. 

“When it comes to our communities’ drinking water, there is no room for error,” said U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1), a member of the Congressional PFAS Task Force, in a statement. “With Long Island identified as the area with the most amount of emerging contaminants in our drinking water compared to the rest of New York State, all levels of government must act with urgency to help protect local families’ drinking supplies. “

The bill would also direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to designate the chemicals as a hazardous substance to prevent further environmental contamination and require cleanup of contaminated sites, set air emission limits for the hazardous substances, prohibit unsafe incineration of PFAS, limit the introduction of new PFAS chemicals into commerce, identify health risks by requiring comprehensive health testing and monitoring for PFAS in drinking water, require a drinking water standard for at least PFOA and PFOS that protects public health and provide funding through the PFAS Infrastructure Grant Program to assist local communities with impacted water systems.

Peter Scully, deputy Suffolk County executive and water czar, said the legislation is vital. 

“The new law is important in that it recognizes the urgency of the need for EPA to act quickly to address the potential health risks associated with these emerging contaminants, while at the same time acknowledging the cost impact of more stringent regulation on public water suppliers and, by extension, on people they supply water to,” he said. 

Scully added the law addresses the cause of the problem by requiring manufacturers to submit reports about how much PFAS they produced and by requiring the EPA to add pots, pans and cooking utensils that do not contain PFAS to its Safer Choice Program. 

“The bill could be a huge step forward in the effort to get ahead of his problem if it is fully implemented,” Scully said. 

 

the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a 10-year multi-billion project to build a new electron-ion collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. Provide photo from Brookhaven National Lab

By Daniel Dunaief

Through answers to basic questions, scientists develop new technology that changes the world, leading to medical breakthroughs, energy applications and national security devices.

That’s the theory behind the U.S. Department of Energy’s decision last week to award a 10-year project that will cost between $1.6 billion and $2.6 billion to build a new electron-ion collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. 

For the scientists, the discoveries will flow from answers to questions about the nature of visible matter.

“The big science we’re excited about, the hundred-year-old questions, are things like where does the mass of a proton come from,” said Robert Tribble, the deputy director for science and technology at Brookhaven National Laboratory and a nuclear physicist. The EIC is like a microscope to look at quarks and gluons, he explained.

With support from numerous New York State and Long Island leaders, BNL recently won a competition against Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator in Virginia to build an electron-ion collider. Members of the Jefferson Accelerator, as well as over 1,000 scientists from 30 nations, will partner with BNL staff to conceptualize and build the new collider, which will be the most advanced ever constructed.

In addition to understanding atomic nuclei, we will be able to generate a better view of the universe writ large [with discoveries from the EIC].”

Robert Tribble

“We do not understand very dense matter that exists in the universe in objects like neutron stars and black holes,” Tribble explained in an email. “In addition to understanding atomic nuclei, we will be able to generate a better view of the universe writ large [with discoveries from the EIC].”

Over the next decade, the construction of the new EIC will employ 4,000 people, said Doon Gibbs, the laboratory director at BNL. That number represents the workforce that will, at one time or another, contribute to the construction of this new facility. 

The new EIC will expand on the technology of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, which has been operating since 2000 and will stop running experiments in 2024. Indeed, part of the appeal of BNL as a site for this new facility arose out of the ability to extend the resources by building a new electron storage ring and electron accelerator elements.

Researchers will collide electrons and protons and numerous atomic nuclei to study the strong nuclear force. These collisions will reveal how the subunits of protons and neutrons in the nucleus, namely the quarks and gluons, come together to help generate mass in visible matter.

The staff at BNL is “delighted and excited” that the site for the EIC will be on Long Island, said Gibbs. “Our design has the capability of using many existing technologies and extending them farther than they’ve been before.”

Indeed, even the conception of the EIC has led to some new scientific breakthroughs, some of which the lab and its partners will share with the public in the next few weeks.

While the application of research at the EIC will likely lead to breakthroughs in fields including materials science, researchers at BNL are excited about basic questions about the nature of nuclear matter.

A typical experiment at the EIC will likely follow the same pattern as it has with RHIC, in which hundreds of researchers from around the world collaborate to understand physics properties. In the next few years, researchers will develop a detailed design before they start construction.

“We love challenges at BNL, we like building big machines. We’re good at it. We have a whole class of staff who, in particular, are experts at this kind of activity and they are pretty excited.”

Doon Gibbs

Gibbs said the facility has a strong handle on the safety features of the new collider, which will build on the protocols and designs developed at the RHIC as well as with the National Synchrotron Light Source II, also at the lab in Upton.

“We love challenges at BNL,” Gibbs said. “We like building big machines. We’re good at it. We have a whole class of staff who, in particular, are experts at this kind of activity and they are pretty excited.”

Area politicians are also excited about discoveries in basic science, translational benefits in areas like medicine and the expected boost to the local economy.

“Establishing the electron-ion collider on Long Island might be focused on particles, but it will add some serious mass — nearly $1 billion worth — to the local economy,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) said in a statement. BNL has the “talent, the technology and the track record to make the most of this national project.”

Schumer believes this project will guarantee that BNL continues to be a “world class research facility for the next generation.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) praised the leadership at BNL.

“I congratulate BNL Director Doon Gibbs for leading this exceptional organization and all of its scientists who have worked incredibly hard every step of the way to make this possible, and can’t wait to see what they do next,” Zeldin said in a statement.

 

A Walmart customer donates to Stan Feltman’s fundraising efforts for fellow veterans. Photo by Rita J. Egan

On a recent December morning, while many shoppers rushed into the Middle Island Walmart to take care of some holiday shopping, others paused in the vestibule to throw some money in a bucket.

The container sat in a shopping cart filled with articles and wartime photos that feature veteran Stan Feltman, 93, the man standing behind the cart. Feltman is a familiar face at the store as he stands there practically every day, all year long, collecting money for his fellow veterans with the recognizable red poppies in his hand. Some days he takes a break, but only from his usual spot. He then moves on to collect money at the Walmart in Centereach or East Setauket.

Feltman said he’s met so many generous people through the years. He usually can collect between $80 and $100 after standing there for two hours. One day a gentleman shook his hand and noticed he was cold and bought him a jacket from the store. One woman gave him a $20 bill one day saying it was for him to keep.

“I took the $20, and when she left I threw it in the pot,” he said. “I don’t need the money.”

A member of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, Feltman brings the donations to the post’s monthly meetings where he and his fellow members decide where the money should go. Post Comdr. Norman Weitz said over the last few years they have been able to donate more than $21,000 thanks to Feltman’s fundraising efforts. The post is a regular contributor to many veterans efforts, including the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University.

“A common theme you will see in the veterans community is that veterans are dedicated to giving back to helping other veterans.”

– Jonathan Spier

In 2017, the post donated $5,000 to LISVH. Jonathan Spier, deputy executive director of the vets home, said the donation was used to purchase oxygen concentrators for the patients. He said the JWV has been a partner with the home for more than 20 years and other donations from them have been used for recreational therapy programs. The post also assists Jewish vets to attend Shabbat and holiday services.

“A common theme you will see in the veterans community is that veterans are dedicated to giving back to helping other veterans,” he said.

Spier added he is in awe of Feltman’s fundraising efforts.

“It’s really incredible to see that passion and that energy and the effort that he puts in to help veterans,” he said.

As for his war record, Feltman was a B-29 tail gunner in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1945. He was a double ace, meaning he shot down 10 enemy planes. Weitz said he admires Feltman, who one time when he was shot down had to escape on a raft. When Feltman’s fellow soldier slipped off the raft into shark-infested waters, he dived down to save him and grabbed him by the collar. Feltman earned the Bronze Star Medal for saving the man’s life. The medal wasn’t the only one earned during his service, as he gained four medals in total throughout his time in the Air Corps, even though they are no longer in his possession.

“My wife was so proud of them when she passed away, I put them in her coffin,” he said.

Weitz said he believes there are more heroic acts that Feltman doesn’t talk about, and the office of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is trying to see if his medals can be replaced by writing to the Air Force Historical Research Agency, which has access to after-action reports. The post commander has also nominated Feltman for membership in the Legion of Honor of The Chapel of Four Chaplains, which recognizes veterans who have gone above and beyond their required duties and contribute to their community.

In addition to raising money for veterans, Feltman has participated in lectures at schools and senior groups, including Erasmus Hall High School where he attended while growing up in Brooklyn. He also has been interviewed for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, an initiative established to collect and preserve firsthand remembrances of wartime veterans.

Weitz calls Feltman amazing and said he is worthy of all the accolades he has received.

“The record amount of money he’s collected allows us to distribute thousands and thousands to local veterans organizations,” he said.

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Broadway Beach in Rocky Point still shows major storm damage. Photo by Kyle Barr

Town of Brookhaven highway officials are completing the final FEMA-funded project to shore-up Brookhaven shoreline following Hurricane Sandy, the storm that wrecked Long Island’s coastline nearly 7½ years ago.

At its Dec. 5 meeting, the Town Board voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the North Shore Beach Property Owners Association to go in and add a new stone revetment and bulk heading to halt erosion, but also adding an interceptor unit at the end of Broadway in Rocky Point, one that town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said will treat runoff for sediment and organic material before it outfalls into Long Island Sound. The project is expected to start early in 2020 and finish by Memorial Day. Losquadro said he doesn’t expect any major difficulties in construction.

“The storm presented an opportunity — building it stronger so it doesn’t get damaged later,” he said.

While the town only got federal approval for the project last year, the costs comes in at about $1.2 million, with 90 percent being taken up by Federal Emergency Management Agency funds secured in part, Losquadro said, by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1). The last 10 percent, or $120,000, comes from the town’s highway budget as a capital project.

The interceptor unit is a large concrete drum that will lie somewhere under the road.

Losquadro said the town has been involved with 10 other Sandy-related projects on the North Shore since the storm hit, which not only look to repair storm damage but help prevent future injury to the shoreline. The town has spent around $12 million in FEMA and their own funds with these construction projects, he said.

Many of the roads lying nearest to the shore are named some combination of “gully” and “landing,” with many of these streets being low-lying areas where water naturally congregates. Where once they were dirt and gravel, paving them has led to drainage complications. Much of the land is privately owned, such as the case of the end of Broadway and the connected beachfront. 

“There’s been a number of homeowner associations we’ve had to work with,” the highway superintendent said. “A lot of these drainage easements go through private properties.”

A representative of the NSBPOA did not return calls for comment from their clubhouse.

Attendees arrive for a Lee Zeldin fundraiser at the Flowerfield Catering Hall. Photo by Donna Deedy

It’s a book signing. … It’s a political fundraiser. … It’s the latest trend in party politics.  

Donald Trump Jr. attended an event at the Flowerfields Catering Hall in St. James Thursday, Nov. 21, where campaign lawn signs for U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) were planted along the walkway into the venue. Inside the reception hall, stacks of  Trump Jr.’s new book, “Triggered,” were piled high. Released on Nov. 5, the book shot to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list after the Republican National Committee bought the book in bulk, spending nearly $100,000, to distribute as donor prizes, according to a New York Times report.

Tickets for Zeldin’s VIP Reception at Flowerfields cost $1,000 per person, which included a signed copy of Trump Jr.’s book. General admission cost $200 per person with a signed copy of the book or $150 with an unsigned copy. Additional copies of a signed book were being sold for $100. Checks were to be made out to Zeldin Victory Committee.

“The Congressman is grateful for the sweeping support he’s received, highlighted by record fundraising numbers this year,” Zeldin’s spokesperson Katie Vincentz stated. “Attended by over 350 people and raising over $200,000, this latest smash success fundraiser builds on that increasing momentum.” 

Members of the press were turned away from the event.  

“Sorry, the Secret Service said no,” reporters were told at the reception desk inside. A Secret Service representative, though, later stated in an email that the agency does not facilitate media access issues. 

Outside the Gyrodyne Property on Moriches Road several dozen protesters assembled.  

“No public town hall in two and half years,” they yelled out to cars passing by. “Tell Zeldin to hold a public town hall.”

St. James resident Maria LaMalga was among the protesters. She said she asked to speak with the congressman, had left messages and submitted written requests to talk with Zeldin, but she said that she has not yet received a response. 

“I only see him tweeting about impeachment,” she said. “I wish he would work for his constituents.”

The North Shore Peace Group organized the protest. The group’s priority issues include comprehensive gun laws, deficit spending and U.S.-Mexico border policies, especially concerning ongoing detentions and restrictions and limitations put on refugees.

In response to the criticism, Zeldin stated in an email that an open town hall meeting was hosted in September by the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association.   

To date, Zeldin has raised $1.8 million, according to FEC filings.

 

A breakdown of current legislation on the gun debate

Stock Photo

Mass shootings and gun violence have rocked the nation, leaving people to ask the question:  What can be done to stop the violence?

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. File photo

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called on Democratic presidential candidates to support strong gun safety laws. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY2), in a show of bipartisanship, called for a vote on the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 at a press conference Aug. 6.

Improved background checks, banning high-powered automatic and semi-automatic weapons and ammunition, and better mental health screenings have been among the top ideas suggested, some of the legislation relating to which is still pending.  Some are stalled at various levels of Congress.

Here’s a recap of what measures have been recently implemented or proposed. 

Bump stocks

In March 2019 President Donald Trump (R) signed into law a ban on bump stocks, devices which turn weapons into automatic guns that fire rapidly through the recoil of the gun itself.

Red flag laws

New York State passed a “red flag” law in February 2019, which takes effect on Aug. 24. A new report, entitled “Mass Violence in America: Causes, Impacts and Solutions,” which was released Aug. 6 by the National Council for Behavioral Health, suggests that red flag laws may be among the best tools so far suggested for reducing gun violence. Red flag laws enable people, concerned about the well-being of individuals who display violent tendencies or show signs that they may be at risk to engage in gun violence, to contact law enforcement to institute gun control measures through a court process. Under New York’s statute, three categories of people can submit a red flag on someone: law enforcement, school officials and family.

Background checks

H.R.8 Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 

H.R.1112 Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019

Both bills have passed the House and are stalled in the Senate, with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refusing to bring H.R.8 in particular to the floor for vote.

H.R.8 establishes background checks for guns transferred between private parties (unlicensed individuals.) Specifically, it prohibits transfer of firearms unless a gun dealer or importer first takes possession of the weapon and does a background check. The prohibition does not apply to gifts that transfer weapons between spouses.

U.S. Rep Tom Suozzi, who co-sponsored the event, takes the podium. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

H.R.1112 revises the background checks to applicable firearm transfers from federal licensed firearms licensee (or a gun dealer) to unlicensed person. 

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) is co-sponsor of both bills. Suozzi represents Queens and the North Shore of Long Island to parts of Kings Park and runs an office in Huntington. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) voted “no” on both bills.  

Zeldin defends his “no” vote record on these bills. When asked why, here is his response:

“In the case of Parkland, for example, Nikolas Cruz passed a background check, but clearly should not have had any access to firearms. The current system is flawed. Unfortunately, instead of addressing these shortcomings, H.R.8 and H.R.1112 zeroed in on law-abiding citizens. We need to improve our nation’s background check system by ensuring state reporting and the compilation of all relevant information. We cannot determine if certain people are unfit to own a firearm if we don’t have the necessary available information.”

H.R.4477 Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) Act of 2017 

Passed as part of Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018.

H.R.4477 amends the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to require each federal agency and department to supply disqualifying records of a person prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Zeldin supported the Fix NICS bill, and had this to say:

“We need to ensure lunatics manifesting violent criminal intentions to murder with firearms have access to none. That’s why I supported the Fix NICS bill, which could have saved 26 lives at the First Baptist Church [of Sutherland Springs] in Texas, and why I called for a congressional hearing and action in the wake of the tragedy in Parkland. I support the Mass Violence Prevention [Reform] Act, which would improve information sharing to prevent and deter violence caused by criminal use of firearms, reduce the flow of firearms onto the black market and provide law enforcement with increased resources to keep our communities safe. I also supported the STOP School Violence Act that helps school personnel and law enforcement identify and prevent violence in schools.”

Concealed carry reciprocity 

H.R.38 Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2019 

The bill allows individuals to carry concealed weapons to other states that allow concealed weapons. The bill was introduced in January and referred to committee with no recent action. 

Suozzi voted “no” on similar legislation proposed in 2017. Zeldin is a co-sponsor of the 2019 legislation. 

A representative for Zeldin had this to say on the bill:

“The congressman supports the rights of law- abiding Americans to own firearms to protect themselves, their family and other loved ones. He believes lunatics manifesting violent criminal intentions to murder with firearms have access to none.”

Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach holds an annual community race to raise money for the farm. Photo by Kyle Barr

To address the critical shortfall of skilled young and beginning farmers and ranchers, congressional leaders, including Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), introduced June 13 the Young Farmer Success Act. If adopted, the bill would encourage careers in agriculture, by adding farmers and ranchers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, an existing program that currently includes teachers, nurses, first responders and other public service professions. Under the program, eligible public service professionals who make 10 years of income-driven student loan payments can have the balance of their loans forgiven.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks during an interview at TBR News Media. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Our country’s farmers are part of the backbone of our nation, and while they are critical to ensuring American families have food to put on the table, all too often the next generation of farmers is finding that a career in agriculture makes it difficult to put food on their own table,” Zeldin said. “After graduating college, aspiring farmers are saddled with crippling student loan debt and the daunting costs of agricultural businesses, oftentimes driving them from a career feeding our country.” 

The new legislation will allow the next generation of farmers to pursue a career serving the American people, eliminating the disincentive to study agriculture in school and getting them on the farm when they graduate.

Farming is an expensive business to enter, in part because of skyrocketing land prices. Young and beginning farmers often see small profits or even losses in their first years of business. With the majority of existing farmers nearing retirement age, and very few young people entering the farming or ranching profession, America is beginning to face an agricultural crisis. Since the Dust Bowl, the federal government has taken steps to support farmers, and the Young Farmer Success Act supports farmers through a different approach — finding a tangible pathway to pay off student loans that will offer incentives to a new generation of career farmers.

“Eighty-one percent of the young farmers who responded to our 2017 national survey hold a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree,” Martin Lemos, National Young Farmers Coalition interim executive director, said. “This means there is a very small population of beginning farmers without student loan debt. With the average age of farmers now nearing 60 years, and farmers over 65 outnumbering those under 35 by 6:1, we need to do more for the next generation of farmers to succeed. We are grateful for the bill’s bipartisan champions, Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT), Glenn ‘G.T.’ Thompson (R-PA), Josh Harder (D-CA) and Lee Zeldin. With the support of Congress, we will encourage those who wish to pursue a career in farming to serve their country by building a brighter future for U.S. agriculture.”

In 2011, National Young Farmers Coalition conducted a survey of 1,000 young farmers and found 78 percent of respondents struggled with a lack of capital. A 2014 follow-up survey of 700 young farmers with student loan debt found that the average burden of student loans was $35,000. The same study also found 53 percent of respondents are currently farming, but have a hard time making their student loan payments and another 30 percent are interested in farming, but haven’t pursued it as a career because their salary as a farmer wouldn’t be enough to cover their student loan payments.

From left to right: Laura Curran, Peter King, Tom Suozzi and Lee Zeldin urge tighter federal rules to protect drinking water and Long Islanders health. Photo from Lee Zeldin’s office

The Long Island congressional delegation has reached a tipping point. They’re ready for the Environmental Protection Agency to take action to better address concerns over water quality and its potential impact on human health.

U.S. Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), Peter King (R-Seaford) and Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) were joined June 18 by local elected officials and environmental advocates at the Town of Hempstead Water Department to demand that the EPA sets maximum contaminant levels for drinking water and act to help protect Long Islanders from contaminated drinking supplies.

“When it comes to our communities’ drinking water, there is no room for error,” Zeldin said following the press conference. “This is the drinking water for so many Long Islanders, and failure to act is not an option.”

New York Public Interest Research Group or NYPIRG, found in a recent study that Long Island has the most contaminated drinking water in New York state. Several contaminants, such as 1,4-dioxane and per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as PFAS — were detected above the EPA’s reference concentrations, which are health-based assessments. 

The problem is widespread. Locally, the chemical 1,4-dioxane was found in at least two private drinking wells in Smithtown and also in wells serviced by Suffolk County Water Authority, including the Flower Hill Road well field in Halesite, as reported in The Times of Smithtown April 30 article, “County acts to address drinking water contamination concerns.” 

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said that 65 out of 80 commonly used household products that the organization had tested included at least trace amounts of the potentially toxic chemical 1,4-dioxane. CCE is calling for a ban on its use.

Zeldin is a member of the Congressional PFAS Task Force which was established to address the urgent threat of PFAS to help better protect communities from the harmful effects of the chemicals.

The use of industrial strength firefighting foam during past training exercises, such as those undertaken at the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Calverton and Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, have been known to introduce chemicals, such as PFAS, into the surrounding groundwater, potentially contaminating drinking supplies.

PFAS is a man-made substance that is persistent in the human body and the environment. It can also be found in nonstick products, polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products and packaging.

Some PFAS are no longer manufactured in the U.S., according to the EPA website, but can be produced internationally and imported to U.S. in consumer goods such as carpets, textiles, paper and packaging, rubber and plastics. 

The EPA Region 2 Office spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment before press time. 

The U.S. government declared a ceasefire in a war against itself Jan. 25. The three-week agreement to end the 35-day government shutdown is a compromise to lower the guns so the two sides can talk but, if anything, the weapons are still loaded.

If it were a real agreement, it wouldn’t have been given a deadline.

That’s what the whole government shutdown has felt like, a war, and like any modern war, the people who are hurt most are the civilians caught in the crossfire.

The number of people affected has been reported so often, but it is worth repeating. There were some 800,000 federal workers who were furloughed or forced to work without pay during the government closure, the longest shutdown in this nation’s history. Last week, TBR News Media reported on businesses who assisted those federal workers by providing free food and services. Some of those shops received 200, 300 or more people in a single weekend seeking help, and those same business owners spent hundreds of out-of-pocket dollars to help feed people. Organizations that usually create food kitchens for the holiday season or during national disasters organized for the thousands affected.

Even though the shutdown is over, major news outlets report workers do not know when they will receive their full back pay. Federal watchdogs said it might take the IRS a full year to recover from the lingering effects of the shutdown. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report Jan. 28 saying the shutdown cost the U.S. economy $11 billion, $3 million of which it will never recover.

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump (R) said the likelihood of reaching a deal is less than 50 percent. That’s not good enough.

This government shutdown was a hostage situation, and we at TBR News Media believe it should not become a regular political tool to hang the U.S. economy up by its lapels until it coughs up whatever an individual or political body desires. Another modern country has experienced a shutdown in the past. In 1975, Australia was unable to pass a budget. That shutdown resulted in first, the prime minister getting sacked then later the entire parliament was sacked as well, and a new vote was required to help reform the government. Australia has not had a government shutdown since.

The U.S. requires legislation that mandates some sort of repercussion for politicians that force, or allow, a shutdown to occur. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced at the start of the closure he would not take any pay while government workers went without. That is a good start, and it should be codified and expanded to include every elected official in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Residents should call upon their elected representatives, like Zeldin, to propose disciplinary measures once the dust of this political wrangling finally settles. While those who work in Congress won’t necessarily feel the pain and indecency that those who have lived without paychecks for several weeks had to endure, it might remind them they were elected to help — not harm — those they swore to represent.