Long Island Sands Casino
By: Jane Fasullo
December 10, 2023
On October 24, 2013, a New York Times editorial warned of the long-term negative effects casinos have on their surrounding area and the local economy.
Ten years later, studies by The Illinois Law Review1 and other interest groups indicate no better prognosis regarding the presence of a casino in a residential community.
The Long Island Sierra Club has strong concerns about the environmental impacts. Nassau County and Las Vegas Sands (LVS) should have taken more time to do a thorough and independent environmental assessment. Fortunately, the NYS Supreme Court, on November 9th, made the same determination.
Environmental concerns and questions raised by residents and environmentalists across Nassau and Suffolk Counties include:
Noise, light, particulate and chemical pollution from the casino and services to the casino disrupting the natural environment and negatively impacting the quality of life for residents.
Covering the ground with an excessive amount of impermeable surfaces such as roofs and paving will affect groundwater 2. The casino will be 3.8 million square feet, the equivalent of 1.65 Roosevelt Fields and parking will be needed for 12,000 or more vehicles, a high number because there is little public transportation to this location.
Large amounts of garbage will be generated at a time when most landfills must soon close. Where will the garbage go, how will it get there, and at what environmental and economic cost to the Towns (or off island locations) that accept it?
Road congestion – pollution (CO2 output, tailpipe oil/gas releases) and increased accident rates and accident-related pollution.
Water waste volume will be high. It should be treated on site and recharge the groundwater but will instead be transported offsite and sent to sea.
The electric energy demand will be very high. This comes at a time when there have been more heat breaking days than ever with 2023 being the warmest year on record. Almost all our electricity is created by burning something, and burning creates more heat than any other means of generating electricity. Unless and until we have non-heat creating electricity generation, a casino does not make sense.
The land was not zoned for this type of use, nor should it be. The land is one of the few places where the vast plains of Long Island still exist. As such, they are a refuge for many animal and plant species and could be developed as a tourist attraction.
The casino will be in the Town of Hempstead which is already exceeding the state recommended water withdrawal limits set back in the mid-1900’s. That is why the casino will need its own water well. But drawing the large amount of water the casino will need from the aquifer will affect the drinking water south of the casino.3
The Sierra Club agrees with the growing number of residents, as well as the courts, who are demanding that the process slow down and allow for an independent Environmental Review of the LVS proposal. The Sierra Club supports the effort to preserve the balance of nature and responsible growth on Long Island.
1 - Included in the website, www.stoppredatorygambling.org are several papers issued by the prestigious Illinois Law Review. The best summary of gambling issues, according to National Director, Les Bernal, is a University of Illinois Law Review Volume 2021 Number 5 titled: “Bans on Sports Gambling and Lotteries Would Pump-Prime the U.S. Economic System In The New Age Of Covid”.
2 – Covering the ground with impermeable materials prevents rain water from entering the ground below those surfaces. In heavy rains, that water will run off instead of replenishing the underground water supply. The immediate effect will be to flood surrounding lands and roads. The long-term effect will be for streams and ponds to run dry and people to have more water restriction days. Dry wells would increase the amount of water entering the ground but would also increase the amount of poison carried with it. Normally, water entering from the surface is cleaned by surface plants, bacteria, and microbes before it gets into the ground water. Sewered drains would not help with water recharge. Sewers carry water to a treatment plant then out to sea.
From the report Groundwater Sustainability - Long Island, New York | U.S. Geological Survey (usgs.gov) (a.k.a. https://www.usgs.gov/centers/new-york-water-science-center/science/groundwater-sustainability-long-island-new-york#overview)
“… if the water table is lowered (or depth to water is increased) from pumping or sewering, streams and other water bodies can be adversely impacted. In western parts on Long Island, many steams and water bodies have already seen declines in groundwater discharge over the past decades, which is attributed to increased sewering and groundwater withdrawal (Busciolano, 2005). These declines have caused reduced streamflow and lake levels, and have affected the overall health of these water bodies.”
3 - From a NY Times investigation (August 28, 2023) on groundwater across America:
“Overpumping can have other risks beyond diminishing the supply of water. It can also contaminate aquifers in ways that make the remaining water unsafe or undrinkable.
For example, in coastal areas, overpumping can accelerate “saltwater intrusion,” the movement of ocean water into the freshwater aquifer, making it first unappetizing, then unhealthy.
Saltwater intrusion is happening in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, Florida, the Gulf Coast and California. “It’s pretty widespread,” said Dr. Cline of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Consider Long Island in New York. Saltwater is encroaching on parts of the aquifers that provide drinking water for the three million people who live east of Queens and Brooklyn. The Suffolk County Water Authority has had to limit pumping at about 60 of its wells, or 10 percent of the total, according to Dan Dubois, a spokesman.”
Salt water intrusion happens when the pressure from fresh water running underground from the land decreases allowing the higher-pressure sea water to “backup” into the fresh water basins (aquifers). Its most recognizable along the coasts. This happens when too little rain gets into the ground, the result of too many impermeable surfaces covering the ground such as rooftops and paved parking lots and the water runs off instead of penetrating the ground. It is made worse by road drains that transfer water run-off from the hardened grounds to a waste water treatment plant. Communities to the south of the proposed casino are already dealing with this.